Payson Grad Excels At Smith College

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Tokyo, New York City, Los Angeles and London appear on the roster of hometowns of Smith College athletes, and among those better-known, metropolitan places around the globe -- there sits one name from Payson.

Payson is represented on the Smith swimming and tennis team by one of the most accomplished student-athletes to graduate from PHS.

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Tina Jackson excels academically and on the swim and tennis teams for Smith College in Massachusetts. Jackson graduated from Payson High School in 2005.

Tina Jackson enrolled at prestigious Smith College in Northampton, Mass., following her graduation from Payson High in 2005.

Since enrolling, Jackson has taken on an athletic and course load that would intimidate and frustrate most college students.

In addition to being a standout member of the swim and tennis teams, she's enrolled in a grueling pre-med academic program and has taken on the extra challenge of learning to speak Italian.

Among those impressed by her accomplishments is her sister, Lisa, a graduate of Penn State University.

"She juggles sports, clubs and being a few thousand miles away from home, all the while studying very hard," Lisa said. "Since tennis and swimming were not offered at Payson High School, one can only imagine the time and effort she put in to make the college teams."

Although PHS had no tennis or swimming teams, as Lisa said, Tina was able to hone her court skills under her mother, Diane Jackson, who is a teaching pro and owner of the Payson Tennis School.

Tina's aquatic skills were first learned at Taylor Pool, where she began taking swim lessons when she was 6 years old.

"She was a water baby," Diane Jackson said.

Tina eventually became a starring member of the Pikes swim team and a lifeguard and swim teacher at the municipal pool.

At Smith, the two sports often overlap, creating some hardships for Tina.

"The fall tennis season is from August to October and swimming is from September to February, so I have to juggle time," Tina said.

The time constraints have not slowed her athletic accomplishments. In tennis, she was recently chosen the team captain and is currently ranked No. 2 in doubles and No. 4 in singles.

In swimming, she is one of the team's finest in the back and breast strokes.

In addition to tackling academics and sports, Tina is spending the summer studying in Smith's science and engineering program, has traveled to Italy to learn the language and works as a counselor for a special needs student.

She also spent time last school year in Arizona studying under a Mesa-area surgeon.

During her senior year at Smith, Tina's goal is to become completely fluent in Italian by spending two semesters in Florence.

For Tina, the key to managing such a demanding schedule rests in what Smith -- an all-girls, liberal arts school -- expects of its students.

"To go to school here, you have to be an incredible time manager," Tina said. "This is a really competitive atmosphere, but that is OK with me.

"It keeps me on my toes."

Tina chose Smith out of high school, at the urging of a Payson neighbor, Francis Rich, who graduated from the college in 1933.

"She suffered a stroke when I was about 9 years old. Our family did things to help her out," Tina said. "When I was with her, she often told me about Smith, and it was a place I always wanted to go."

Smith is located near Northampton, a small town like Payson, Tina said, but very much a college town with galleries, shops, clubs and busy sidewalk cafes.

It was recently voted one of "The Best Small Art Towns in America."

"It's a fun town," Tina said.

The school, which is surrounded by wrought iron gates, is located on a New England campus noted for its beauty, Tina said.

Among the perks of attending the school is its proximity to New York City.

Early this week, Tina was readying herself for a trip to the Big Apple, where she was going to take in a Yankees vs. Diamondbacks game.

Tina refused to say which team she was going to cheer for. She admitted, however, her allegiances were divided now that she is living east of the Mississippi.

Although she admittedly has acquired some East Coast preferences, Tina realizes her roots are in the Rim Country.

"I grew up (in Payson)," she said. "It's where I learned so many things and have my mom and friends. I love going back to visit."

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