(This is an excerpt of my story from the Shelbyville Times-Gazette. The link to the full story is below.)
A Middle Tennessee high school junior is battling cancer and inspiring the people around him, including his father — who is also his coach.
Jackson Smith at Shelbyville Central High School began treatment for Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (ACL) on Friday, July 25, after being admitted to the hospital four days previously. This was about two weeks before his shotgun trap team went on to win a C-Class national title.
“It was on that Friday that his doctor let him know in no uncertain terms he wasn’t venturing to Sparta, Illinois, to the championship,” said Jackson’s father and coach, Richard Smith. “He was discharged home for a few days, and in fact was readmitted to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt to begin a round of chemo on Aug. 4, the first day of what is his favorite event, American Singles Trap.”
Jackson and Richard were not able to travel with the team to the AIM National Youth Trapshooting Championships from Aug. 2-5. Jackson’s picture, however, did travel with the team to the grand championship where there were about 1,400 competitors.
Jackson was in the hospital this past week and was able to communicate only by email and text. He sent the Times-Gazette a brief statement:
“I am very proud in my teammates’ performance and the publicity they are receiving from it,” Jackson said in an email.
Trap team members carried Jackson’s mugshot around the tournament and took their pictures with it as a way of including the missing teammate, said Kristin Conley, a coach whose daughter Kate is on the team. Those pictures were dubbed “Flat Jacks.”
“We are already making plans to go back next year and taking the real Jackson, not Flat Jack,” Conley said. “Each child had some personal best while we were there, and for them to be able to step up and compete on that level and do a personal best was very rewarding for everyone.”