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Family credits strong genes for its success

Scott Hansen/JBLM PAO Susan Jackson, middle, with daughters Brianna, 13, left, and Janae, 18.

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Call the Jackson family a product of hard work and determination. Or even talent and skill. But the Jacksons are definitely a result of good genes. More accurately, of strong genes.

Susan Jackson, a fitness specialist and assistant fac-ility manager at McVeigh Fitness Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, is a mother of five and a world champion powerlifter. While all five of her girls are athletic in their own right, her two youngest, Janae and Brianna, followed in their mother and father's footsteps. "They were blessed with really good genes from both sides," Susan said.

Eighteen-year-old Janae is getting ready to start her freshman year at Pierce College, but outside of the classroom she has already achieved more than her average peers. By 16 she was ranked fourth in the world in junior boxing and she had set multiple state, national and world powerlifting records.

Brianna was barely 5 when she lifted her first weight. By the time she barely weighed 100 pounds she was pulling 210 pounds in a deadlift.

"We had to weigh her with her clothes on," Susan said. "She beat the high school girls and she was just a little beanpole."

Now 13, Brianna just started the eighth grade. She competes in basketball and track and field where she runs the 200-meter in 27 seconds.

But Janae and Brianna aren't sure what the fuss is about. They don't understand why reporters contact them to write stories about their family. To them it's their every day, normal life.

Susan grew up in Alaska with brothers who were wrestlers and weight lifters. She played sports and was always around the weight room. By her early 20s she started to compete in body building, but the competitions were sidelined when she had her first three children.

In her 30s she wanted to get back into body building but didn't want to have to do the diet that went with it. Someone noticed her strength and suggested she should give powerlifting a try.

"I went to a meet and I liked it so I started training," Susan said.

Within the first 10 months she improved her bench press by 100 pounds and set her first world record at 225 pounds.

"After that I thought I'm really good at this," Susan said.

From 2003 to 2007 Susan competed non-stop and set three world records. In January 2008 she was on target to set another world record in the bench press and deadlift when she was rear-ended in a car accident that left her with multiple injuries to her back and legs.

Susan was forced to retire from powerlifting, but she didn't stay away from the sport. Janae and Brianna grew up watching their parents compete on stage. Their father, Jack Jackson, a retired JBLM Soldier, also competed in powerlifting. Janae and Brianna were hooked.

Janae started competing when she was 10 and set multiple records. She still has a couple records in Alabama and Washington, but Janae gave up powerlifting her sophomore year in high school to dedicate her time to boxing. By this time next year she hopes to turn professional.

"It's more than a sport," Janae said. "You have to think about it. It's a lot of logic and footwork."

Brianna said she liked the feeling of being on stage and pulling more than twice her weight in powerlifting competitions. But most importantly she enjoyed the contest for another reason.

"I can beat the boys at my school," she said.

The last four years Susan has worked at McVeigh while she shuttles around Tacoma and Auburn to watch her girls compete in a variety of activities. The proud mom's iPhone is full of hundreds of photos and video recordings of the girls competing.

Even at home the girls are competitive playing video games on the Xbox, where Susan said the girls have broken multiple controllers because they hate to lose. Ask Janae and Brianna which one is better at video games and they'll both raise their hands.

While Susan continues to get used to retirement she is busy keeping up with the girls' active lifestyles. To cater to the growing athletes Susan spends $700 to $900 a month on food for the three of them. "And I still get the phone calls saying, ‘Mom, there's no food in the house,'" Susan said.

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