Bershawn Jackson runs during his heat in the mens 400-meter hurdles at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Eugene Ore. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez
July 08, 2016

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Bershawn Jackson's dad used to call him a speeding bullet.

That explains the necklace the 400-meter hurdler wears when he races.

Jackson's dad, Jeffrey Felton, died of a heart attack in October at the age of 53. Jackson's tribute to the man who rarely missed a track meet is to wear a hollowed-out silver bullet filled with his dad's ashes when he competes.

''He's always with me,'' Jackson said after winning his first-round heat Thursday at the U.S. Track and Field Trials. ''He was my No. 1 support team.''

Being here, in Eugene, is difficult for Jackson. His dad was at Hayward Field in 2012 at the trials, when Jackson finished a disappointing fourth - one spot away from making the team - and needed comforting. He was here last year, too, watching as Jackson earned a spot on the world squad headed to Beijing.

''Never missed a track meet since I was 6 years old,'' said Jackson, who was returning from Europe when he found out about his father's death. ''He always gave me advice before a race.''

The message was typically the same.

''He would say, `Just go do what you do best,''' recounted Jackson, a bronze medalist at the 2008 Beijing Games.

Jackson took that advice to heart, finishing a rain-soaked race in 49.91 seconds. Not bad considering the trouble he ran into earlier in the week. Just before trials, Jackson was opening a drawer when he cut his right finger on a blender blade. It made crouching down and placing his hand on the track at the starting line a little painful.

''But I don't need my finger to run,'' said the sprinter, who goes by the nickname ''Batman.''

These days, he's pushed in practice by training partner, Johnny Dutch, who also advanced.

''We make each other better. We complement each other,'' said the 33-year-old Jackson, who grew up in Miami and now lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. ''He's a technician. I'm a speedster. It's a great situation for both of us. It would be great if we both could make the team.''

If it happens, the silver bullet will be on the ride to Rio.

''He was a great father. He supported me in everything I did, from school to track and field,'' Jackson said. ''He was just always there.''

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