Cahokia native Ja’Mari Ward earned his second straight national title by winning the long jump at the USA Track and Field Junior Outdoor Championships on Friday in Sacramento, Calif.
Just weeks after completing his freshman season at the University of Missouri, Ward scratched on his first two attempts before leaping 25 feet 7 1/2 inches to nip Justin Hall of Texas Tech University for the championship. Hall’s top effort was 24 feet 9 3/4 inches.
The junior national championship is the second in a row for Ward who won the title a year ago with jump of 25 feet, 8 3/4 inches. With the win, Ward earns a spot on the U.S. junior national team and advances to compete in the Pan American Junior Championships in Lima, Peru, July 21-23.
The trip abroad will be the second in as many years for Ward who placed sixth in the long jump at the 2016 IAAF World U20 Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, with a jump of 25 feet, 2 1/2 inches last summer.
The Southeastern Conference champion in the long jump this past spring, Ward was one of the leaders on four of the six straight Class 2A championships won by Cahokia High School. Ward also was a two time state champion in the triple jump and long jump and also a two-time Gatorade Illinois Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year