Even though the Cahokia Comanches won a fourth straight Class 2A state track and field title two weeks ago, the sophomore season of Jamari Ward didn't exactly have a fairy tale ending.
Ward won the triple jump and placed second in the long jump, but after suffering an ankle injury on his first long jump attempt in the finals, Ward left O'Brien Stadium in Charleston knowing he could have done better and very motivated.
Competing in the elite Great Southwest Classic last Thursday in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Ward let out his frustrations in a big way.
Still favoring his right ankle, Ward won the long jump with a personal record jump of 25 feet 6 3/4 inches as he led the way for metro-east area athletes.
"No, the ankle was still bothering him He was still dragging it but he wanted to compete. The hope was to hit a big first jump and sit and rest. He took two and hit a big jump," veteran Comanches coach Leroy Millsap said in a telephone interview.
"Jamari was a little disappointed because he wanted to go over 25 feet at the state meet. He was motivated to do it here.''
Ward's previous best jump was 24-5 1/2.
The Great Southwest Classic, held at the University of New Mexico, featured many of the top high school girls and boys track and field athletes in the nation.
Joining Ward in the winners circle was Belleville East standout William Session. Just missing the finals of the 110 meter hurdles at the Class 3A state finals, Session won the event in New Mexico, posting a time of 14.13 seconds. Gary Hickman of Cahokia placed fifth in the event.
Session also placed 10th in the 300 meter hurdles with a time of 39.16.
Three other Cahokia athletes placed in the top 10 in their respective events.
Jalon Monigan placed second in the triple jump with an effort of 47-5 1/2, Mariya Hudson placed seventh in the girls 400 meters at 55.36 and Raynesha Lewis was seventh in the girls triple jump at 37-8.
Locals at NCAA Division I Championships
While Jamari Ward was competing in New Mexico last week, older brother La'Derrick Ward will compete in the NCAA Division I Track and Field Outdoors National Championships this week in Eugene, Ore.
A junior at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Ward will compete in the long jump on Thursday and is one of four metro-east area athletes competing for national titles at the University of Oregon this week.
The NCAA Division I meet begins on Wednesday and concludes on Saturday.
Other local athletes competing include former Breese Central High standout Jena Hemann (Texas A&M) in the heptathlon, Northern Illinois' Claudette Day, of Belleville, in the high jump and Bradley's Kristen Busch, of Freeburg, in the 5,000 meters.
Ward, who had the top long jump in the nation during the regular season of 26-3 took fifth at the NCAA West Preliminaries at the University of Arkansas last month with a leap of 25-0.75.
Day, who graduated from Belleville West in January, is just the second Northern Illinois University athlete to qualify for the national finals and will compete in the high jump on Saturday.
Hemann will compete in the grueling two-day seven-event heptathlon beginning with the 100 meter hurdles on Thursday. The high jump, shot put and 200 meters are also slated for Thursday with the long jump, javelin and 800 meters set for Friday.
Busch, a sophomore at Bradley University in Peoria, will run in the 10,000 meters on Thursday.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle@bnd.com or 239-2661.