By Nick Giannandrea
Jackson Miller's sophomore season for College of the Sequoias' track and field team might have been cut short, but he's still making the leap to the next level.
Miller, a jumps specialist, has signed to continue his academic and athletic career at NCAA Division II Humboldt State.
Chico State also expressed interest in Miller, but a visit to Humboldt State's campus in Arcata sealed the deal for the El Diamante High graduate, who will join a roster of Jacks' jumpers that also includes former Redwood standout Romel Robinson.
"When I got up there it was beautiful, trees everywhere, and I liked the weather," said Miller, who carries a 3.3 grade-point average at COS and plans to study kinesiology at Humboldt State. "The coaches and athletes made me feel like I was at home. I knew this was where I wanted to be."
Miller appeared poised for a successful season for the Giants before the California Community College Athletic Association canceled the remainder of the spring sports schedule on March 19 because of concerns over the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.
Miller had already achieved Northern California championship meet qualifying marks in the triple jump (44-10), long jump (21-2) and high jump (6-3 1/2) through COS' only four events: The Battle of the Regions at Bakersfield College on Feb. 7, the Sunbird Invitational at Fresno Pacific on Feb. 21-22, the Chabot Relays in Hayward on Feb. 28 and the Kim Duyst Invitational at Cal State Stanislaus on March 6-7.
"I was hitting marks that I didn't hit until late in the season last year," Miller said. "I knew big things were going to happen. It was going to be a good one."
COS track and field coach Kenny Jackson agreed.
Kenny Jackson said Miller was on pace to qualify for the state meet in all three of his events after making it in the triple jump last season. Miller was looking to improve his performance from last year, when he placed sixth in the triple jump at the NorCal championships before failing to place at the state meet.
"It's not uncommon for kids to attempt all three, but it's pretty rare to have a kid who does all three at the level Jackson was jumping," Kenny Jackson said of the trifecta of triple jump, long jump and high jump. "Jackson is everything you want in a college athlete. He leads by example in the classroom and on the track. He's hard working. He's always on time. He never missed a practice. I think Humboldt is getting a real good jumper and a real good young man."
Jumping runs in the blood of Miller and his younger brother, Cooper, an El Diamante senior who will compete at COS next season.
Their father, Brent Miller, was a high jumper and decathlete at Fresno State from 1992-95.
Brent Miller, who has guided jumpers at Buchanan, Tulare Western and Mt. Whitney over the years, started coaching Jackson during his seventh grade year at St. Paul's School. Brent continued coaching Jackson at El Diamante and COS.
"He and I have a really good relationship," Jackson Miller said. "He knows how to coach me mentally and how to get me over certain hurdles. Whenever I've struggled, I could talk to him as my father and not my coach, and he'd pick me up when times were rough."
Brent Miller has enjoyed watching, and helping, his son achieve his goal of becoming an NCAA track and field recruit.
"I can't imagine a better opportunity for him," Brent Miller said. "To get to go to a four-year university and advance in your sport and academics is beyond belief."
Jackson and younger brother Cooper both played soccer extensively in their youth.
And it was on the soccer pitcher where Brent first noticed Jackson's natural jumping ability.
"We'd laugh because someone would go to get the ball from him, and he'd jump over the kid," Brent said.
After scoring nine goals for a 21-5 El Diamante team as a senior in 2018, Jackson decided to give up soccer and focus on track and field only at COS.
"He liked high jump because I did it, but triple jump was his passion," Brent said. "So we focused, focused, focused on it. He really put his nose to the grindstone and did the work. He was jumping really well."
Jackson, who hopes to continue doing all three jumps at Humboldt, said he's happy to be following in his dad's footsteps by becoming an athlete at a four-year university.
"This is what I've wanted since I began doing athletics," Jackson said. "It means a lot because I know I've made my family proud."