The East Valley track and field world is mourning the loss of Hall of Fame coach Carvel Jackson, who passed away Sunday after a lengthy illness.
Jackson, 76, coached track and field and cross country at Mesa and Westwood high schools, where he earned two spots in the Mesa Sports Hall of Fame. He later coached the two sports and was the athletic director at Mesa Community College, where he became a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Hall of Fame.
Longtime MCC basketball coach Tom Bennett remembers Jackson as a brilliant coach and a master motivator who meant more to the school than just being the head of the two sports programs. Bennett noted that Jackson was instrumental in starting and developing MCC’s Health and Improvement Center in the early 1970s, something that, Bennett said, was way ahead of its time.
"He was, in a lot of ways, one of the early coaches that made our school nationally known," Bennett said. "Carvel got us on the national scene in track and field."
Jackson was also more than just a coach at the prep level, said his son, Scott Jackson. Scott Jackson said that his father implemented a physical fitness test at Mesa High. In his second year at Mesa, the school won its first track and field state title.
Jackson then moved to Westwood in its first year of existence in 1964. He was instrumental in naming the mascot the Warriors and picking the color orange for the uniform. "I want all those judges to be able to see my runners cross the finish line," Scott Jackson quotes his father as saying. He also got Westwood’s stadium lights moved from the front to behind the bleachers, which has since been embraced by other schools, Scott Jackson said.
Jackson’s teams at Mesa, Westwood and MCC posted a combined record of 114-5. During his eight years of coaching track and field at MCC, the Thunderbirds won five national championships and had two second-place finishes and one third-place finish. He was named to the NJCAA’s Hall of Fame in 1987 and later was named to the Mesa Sports Hall of Fame, first as a coach in 1998 and later as a member of the 1968 state winning Westwood team in 2002.
Viewing will be held Thursday at the Meldrums Mortuary between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. The funeral is Saturday at 11 a.m. at the LDS Boulder Creek Stake Center (3025 S. Haws, Mesa).