Just six weeks before the 4A state championship track meet last season, Tyriq Jackson filled in for an injured teammate in the 110-meter hurdles at the Queen City Relays at Myers Park High.
After the race, Jackson decided he liked the hurdles and wanted to learn more. That decision has paid off.
Jackson finished fourth in North Carolina in the 110-meter hurdles at the state meet in Greensboro.
"Tyriq is a great athlete, who is extremely fast, and is a natural hurdler," said Hopewell track coach Michelle LaPointe. "It took very little work for him to figure out what he was doing. Now, he is one of the best hurdlers in the state."
The senior has followed his success last season by dominating most of his competition this season.
Jackson has finished first in the 110-meter hurdles in every I-Meck meet he has competed in this outdoor track season, including a No. 1 finish most recently at the Blue Devil Invitational at Mooresville High.
At the Taco Bell Classic, a national event in Columbia, he finished seventh in the event early in the month.
"Before I race in any event, I always think who wants it more - me or them," said Jackson. "In my mind, no one wants it more than me. So, I want to win everything I run in."
While Jackson is on top of his game now, things weren't always as easy for him as he worked his way up the ladder at Hopewell for most of the first three high school seasons.
He was a solid sprinter, triple and long jumper before discovering the hurdles.
Last year, Jackson initially only qualified for the state in the triple jump, before doing it near the end of the season in the 110-meter hurdles.
Jackson, who moved to the area from New Jersey right before high school, felt he hadn't put enough effort into the sport early.
"I liked to run track for fun, but didn't take it that seriously," said Jackson. "Then, I got competitive with a lot of my friends on the team and realized that I could be good at this, too. Once I started working hard, good things started to happen and people started to notice me."
Jackson has gotten a lot of help from his friends and teammates, as Hopewell is not only one of the top track teams in the Lake Norman area, but also in the state.
Fellow Titans like senior Anthony Bynum, one of the top sprinters in the state, and sophomore hurdler Michael Bankhead have encouraged Jackson to work even harder.
Jackson, who also runs the 300-meter hurdles and the 4x100-meter relay, is hoping his talent will take him to college. He lists UNC Charlotte, North Carolina and South Carolina as the three programs he wants to run for.
LaPointe said Charlotte has shown interest to this point, but the next few months will be big for Jackson and his college future.
Jackson's focus for the rest of his season is to morph from contender to a champion - to win the 110-meter hurdles at the 4A state meet in May. He also has high goals for Hopewell. Jackson, who ran the 110-meter hurdles in a career-best 14.56 earlier this month, is already close to the 14.53 time that won the 4A state meet last year. That's motivated the Hopewell hurdler to keep working to get faster to reach his state championship dreams.
"I definitely feel like I am one of the best hurdlers in the state now," said Jackson.
"But I have to go out and prove it. This year, I feel better than ever and I really want to win it all."
For Jackson, win or lose, it's just another hurdle in his life that he wants to clear, so he can keep running toward his future.