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Newton’s Treye Jackson given HOF nod

Former Newton Cardinal Treye Jackson holds his HOF plaque from the Iowa Track Coaches Association. Jackson was inducted for his record-setting efforts during the 1980 and 1981 track seasons.
Former Newton Cardinal Treye Jackson holds his HOF plaque from the Iowa Track Coaches Association. Jackson was inducted for his record-setting efforts during the 1980 and 1981 track seasons.

AMES — Running back, track star, speed demon, friend, son, champion: Treye Jackson has gone by many names in his life, but on Dec. 7, he added a new one to the list — Hall of Famer. Jackson, along with several other former track and field standouts, accepted his induction into the Iowa Track Coaches Hall of Fame at a ceremonial banquet held at the Gateway Center in Ames.

Following his induction into the Hall of Fame, Jackson was afforded an opportunity to look back on his glory days as an athlete, donning the Cardinal red at the highest level of high school sports. His two seasons on the track as an upperclassman are what got him into the Hall, but how it all started was with a family tradition and a pair of old starting blocks.

“My parents kind of trained me since I was five, and I just started getting into it,” Jackson said. “That’s how I got into it was my parents. I liked feeling the wind in my hair, just competing, trying to be the fastest. I just liked running, found out that I liked running, and it just went from there.”

Jackson’s father, Harvey Jr., was a terrific athlete and a runner in his own right, according to his family. His grandfather, Harvey Sr., played baseball. So, Treye had all the right genes to make it work in an athletic venue. He just needed the little extra push. As soon as his parents saw that Treye was taking an interest in what had become a family tradition, they were happy to lend a hand.

“Treye’s grandfather was from Missouri, and this is kind of where he got off the train,” Treye’s mother Pat Jackson said. “He was a baseball player, and Harvey was a runner. So when the boys were growing up, he still had the starting blocks from when he was a runner. When the boys were old enough to get in them, he started practicing running with them. Treye was really interested in it.”

It wasn’t long after that when Treye began to flash glimpses of the speed that would one day land him in a class with all the greatest track athletes in Iowa history. He picked up organized sports as a kid, and although his mother was initially unable to see him play football on Saturday’s due to working late shifts the night before, he quickly gave her a reason to set the alarm clock a couple of hours earlier.

“When Treye was about nine or 10 and flag football was starting up, he came home from the game one Saturday morning and said ‘Mom, you’re going to have to come see me because I’m real good and I can run real fast and the other guys can’t catch me.’ That’s what happened,” Pat Jackson said. “They couldn’t catch him. I’ll never forget that morning. After that, things more or less took off.”

So did Treye. He played nearly every sport growing up, but he shined at football and running track. Jackson was part of the 1980 Newton football team that won the state championship game, rushing for more than 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns that season. Despite being ill for the championship game, Jackson rushed for 111 yards, and although he remembers it as one of his lesser games that season, his performance allowed Newton to control the clock and come away with a 28-14 win and a state title.

The former Newton Cardinal’s accomplishments on the track are well known around Central Iowa. He set a state record with his run timed at 10.3 second in the 100 prelims the year before, and in 1981, he became the first sprinter to win the 100-meter, 200 and 400 state championships on the same day. Thirty-three years later, he remains the only Iowa athlete to have done that. Looking back on that day, Jackson expressed a combination of surprise and exhaustion at his momentous achievement.

“I didn’t think I’d ever get a Triple Crown. I didn’t even know they had a Triple Crown. Well, I guess they didn’t until I did it,” Jackson said with a laugh. “I felt pretty good in the 100, 200, but I got tired in the 400. You know, you’ve got to run three of each races in each day, so I ran like nine races in one day. I knew it was a possibility to win the 100 and 200, but the 400 kind of surprised me.”

To have such an accomplished season in terms of team and individual is a rarity. The physical stamina to be able to shoulder a heavy load for a state championship winning football team and then to come back and become the only one in state history to win a sprinter’s Triple Crown suggests Jackson must have been in peak physical condition.

“I was doing really well that year; everything was coming together,” Jackson said. “I was in pretty good shape. I had a great football season. Going into the track season, the way I ended in football kind of gave me an edge going into the season. I trained very hard for all those years. I’m pretty grateful for it.”

According to his friends, Jackson’s mind was just as strong as his body at the time, though. His lofty goals and determination made his accomplishments seem more than realistic to those closest to him. Reaching those goals seemed, if nothing else, inevitable.

“I was actually surprised he didn’t do it his junior year, also,” childhood friend and former teammate Steve Morris said. “He couldn’t help but get noticed for how good he was. That’s what happens when you put in a lot of hard work and reach for some lofty goals.”

With all his accomplishments in both team and individual sports, it was no surprise that Treye was well received by the Newton community. But even now, at the age of 52 and 33 years removed from that historic season in Newton athletics, the memory of Jackson running resonates in the minds and memories of those in and around the community.

Even in Des Moines, 40 miles west of where he made his legacy, Jackson finds himself recognized by those who watched in awe of his speed, and it is something for which, he is very grateful.

“It’s great to have that,” Jackson said. “It makes me feel really good inside, because I never knew how many people that really did watch me in my athletics. Most of the time, I just went out there and ran and didn’t pay attention to the people. When I was at the Hall of Fame banquet, I had several people come up to me that I never even knew of that watched me from eighth grade on, and I never even knew all these people watched me.”

His parents, still prominent members of the Newton community and mainstays after spending more than a half-century in the town, are asked frequently about where Trey is or what he is up to. Treye takes a sense of pride, and it also gives him delight to have his family members recognized in such a positive manner.

“People are still thankful for what I did for the community,” Treye said. “They talk to my mom, my dad and brothers and sisters. My mom still works at Walmart, and people will come up to her still and ask about me.”

Pat Jackson remembers how Treye helped mold those athletes who came after him. Treye raised the bar for Newton athletics, and his performances serve as another lofty goal, but this goal is one that Newton’s current and future generations will strive to achieve.

“I think a lot of people are very proud that he was from here,” she said. “Of course, there have been plenty of good Newton athletes, but not many have gone on to accomplish what he did. Young people, back during the time when he was running, would send him notes about wanting to be like him. I think a lot of them looked up to him in that way and wanted to be where he was.”

Treye wanted to make a special thanks to the Newton Community for the support, and he gave specific mention to thank Dave and Liz Dodd, who to a large degree chronicled Treye’s athletic career as a Cardinal. To him, they embody a community that he was proud to represent.

“That’s one of the things that still makes me proud is that I’ve done something for my community,” he said. “I put them on the map, and all the things they did for me when I was growing up whether it was education, working out, jobs. Those people, and there’s so many that supported me. I am so grateful for them.”

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