It was the numbers that initially convinced high school All-American triple jumper Jerriod Mack to choose Cal – namely, the 80 percent graduation rate on the Bears’ men’s track team and the school’s 10-mile proximity from his hometown of Richmond.
With a maturity that defies his sophomore status, Mack set lofty academic and athletic goals for himself after high school. And with the newly rededicated Edwards Stadium complex in place, the former St. Mary’s High School standout is, literally, on the right track.
“Nine out of 10 (high school athletes) go on to college and become a nobody again,” said Mack, who took sixth in last year’s Pac-10 triple jump competition as a freshman. “(Cal is) a great academic institution. If you don’t have the academics, you can’t run.”
While Mack may acknowledge the odds against becoming a “somebody” at the ultra-competitive collegiate level, he isn’t intimidated by them. And judging by his first-place performance on what he considered to be “an off-day” at Saturday’s Brutus Hamilton Invitational, he isn’t intimidated by his opponents, either. Mack’s longest jump of 49-2 was more than two feet short of his personal record, but still a foot longer than his closest competition at the meet. Whether or not “home field advantage” was a factor, the sophomore admits his excitement at finally having a home track.
“It’s home,” Mack said. “(The renovation) brought all our spirits up, because now we don’t have to coordinate with Berkeley High (for track time). It’s great having my family here (at meets) – it gave me a lot of confidence today.”
Thanks to the hype surrounding the St. Mary’s track team in his junior and senior years of high school, Mack’s jump to the collegiate level was as smooth as his jumps on the track. The future Cal business major took second in the state in the triple jump in his senior year at St. Mary’s, leading the much-improved Panthers to one of their best overall seasons ever, and all of a sudden found himself a hot commodity for collegiate track programs.
“We started off at the bottom of the barrel (at St. Mary’s) and worked our way to the top,” Mack said. “At the end of my junior year, we got big – started having reporters come to school. It kind of opened my eyes to what’s really out there.”
Having set a new personal record of 51-5 earlier this season, Mack appears well on his way to achieving his immediate goal of putting up a qualifying mark for the olympic trials. Coming from the academics-first environment of St. Mary’s High, however, he is not afraid to put his athletic goals on the back burner in favor of success in the classroom, should such an ultimatum ever present itself.
“Academics came first at St. Mary’s, and it’s the same thing here,” he said.
“The No. 1 goal is to get my diploma.”