Tara Jackson's commitment to excellence helped her stand out above the rest of her Fort Dodge Senior High graduating class.
Wrapping up her athletic career on a high note, Jackson was recently voted as the 2012 Florence Nordman Award winner, presented annually to the top Dodger senior female athlete.
"It's definitely a huge honor," Jackson said. "I thought maybe I had a chance (of winning), but I wasn't exactly sure what would happen."
Participating in cross country, track and soccer along the way, Jackson lettered 12 times and was a model of consistency throughout her four years wearing red and black.
"I loved the team aspect of cross country, but my favorite sport has always been soccer," said Jackson.
In cross country, Jackson qualified for state as both a freshman and sophomore. She actually turned in the best ninth-grade state finish in school history in 2008, placing 24th overall in the Class 4A field.
TIMEOUT WITH TARA JACKSON
Vacation destination: Hawaii.
People I would like to have dinner with: Jesus, Dumbledore, Cake Boss.
It would surprise people that I: eat a lot.
My sports role models: Abby Wambach and Lisa (Koll) Uhl.
My everyday role model: my parents.
I can't go a day without: chocolate.
Superstition: I always put my socks in my left shoe.
Most heated rivalry: West Des Moines Valley.
Favorite road trip: Des Moines for state track.
Teams: Indianapolis Colts and Phoenix Suns.
Classes: AP Lit, Art and Human Anatomy.
Movie: Sherlock Holmes.
Book: Harry Potter.
Jackson's mark eclipsed the previous Dodger record of 28th set by former Iowa State All-American and recent U.S. Olympian Lisa (Koll) Uhl.
"My favorite moment was probably state cross country my freshman year," Jackson said. "I woke up, and my house had been tee-peed by the rest of my team. I actually thought it was snow, and didn't know if I'd be able to run or not.
"Once I did get to run, I couldn't believe the clock when I saw my time (15:10). It was an amazing feeling."
FDSH head coach Tim Hanson offered plenty of praise for Jackson's individual efforts.
"Tara was basically our leader pretty much all four years," said Hanson. "She definitely enjoyed the running part and helped others enjoy the atmosphere, too.
"She was just a good role model inside and outside the classroom."
Jackson also competed at state track as a freshman (3000), junior (1500 and distance medley) and senior (distance medley). She took home bronze in the 1500 at the district meet in 2011.
"Tara was a consistent runner that just had a great attitude," FDSH head coach Todd Constable said. "We kind of knew at a young age that she would be special. Her tremendous work ethic helped her succeed.
"We enjoyed having her, and will deeply miss her."
This past spring, Jackson started 10 games for the Dodger soccer team, which posted four victories on the season.
Jackson credits her parents, Joe and Teresa, for instilling the proper set of values in her life.
"Because of their work ethic, I've always just kind of looked up to my parents," said Jackson. "They've supported me all the way through, and showed me how to achieve my goals."
Jackson was also involved with Dodger Senate, National Honor Society, band, choir and drama. She also served as class co-valedictorian, and was student body president.
Jackson will take her talents to the tradition-rich Iowa Central cross country program.