11/23/09 — Jackson inducted into MOC Hall of Fame

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Jackson inducted into MOC Hall of Fame

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 23, 2009 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Jaime Kylis-Higginbotham made a promise to her softball players when she took over the fledgling Mount Olive College softball program eight seasons ago.

"I promised my girls that however they made All-American, whether it was academically or athletically, they'd have their jersey retired," said Higginbotham before the sixth annual MOC Alumni softball game.

That pledge became reality Saturday afternoon.

Two-time Academic All-American selection Jenny Jackson, who hails from Fremont, had her jersey retired with former and current teammates, and friends and family in attendance on the Nancy Chapman Cassell Field diamond.

"This is the ultimate honor," said Jackson.

Jackson became just the fourth player to have a jersey retired in any sport in MOC athletics history. Erik Lovett, the 2007 Daktronics Division II baseball player of the year, received the honor after helping the Trojans claim the 2008 Division II College World Series championship. Before his achievement, men's basketball standouts Chris MacDonald and Russell Stephens had their respective jerseys retired, which are on display in the trophy case inside Kornegay Arena.

"It is an honor to retire Jenny's jersey," said Higginbotham. "She contributed to some of the most successful seasons in Mount Olive College history. Not only was she an amazing athlete, but she set the standard in the classroom as well."

Jackson received numerous academic awards during her senior season. The most-notable were a 1st team Academic All-America honor given by CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine and a She Got Game/NFCA Scholar Athlete accolade. Jackson and her Trojan teammates logged an impressive 3.133 team grade-point average in 2009, which ranked 51st best among the nation's Division II programs.

The Trojans finished the season ranked No. 9 in the final Southeast Region poll.

"We are very proud of Jenny's accomplishments and feel that no one else should wear her jersey based on all of her accomplishments," said Higginbotham. "I hope that by retiring her jersey, it will inspire some of our current players to continue to succeed in both the classroom and on the softball field."

Jackson transferred to MOC after earning Southern Conference player-of-the-year honors at Western Carolina as a freshman.

The contributions began immediately at MOC. Jackson was named the Conference Carolinas player-of-the-year as a sophomore after helping the Trojans claim their first-ever regular-season championship, and post a school-record 39 victories.

Mount Olive won 93 games in three seasons, including 39 with the hard-throwing Jackson inside the pitcher's circle. She compiled a career earned run average of 1.20 in 383 innings pitched to go along with 327 career strikeouts.

Jackson's role changed during her senior season due to an injury. She became a role player, and helped her teammates behind the scenes either during practice or in games.

"It was very different," said Jackson, who teaches math at Wayne Early Middle College High School. "I still had to be part of the team ... just tried to do my job and everybody else had to do their job. I enjoyed being part of the team, being around the girls and the competition. I thought I would do well if I kept working hard and doing my best.

"I had my jersey retired in high school and I thought 'man, that would be really cool if I did that in college'."

It did.