Cahokia native Ja’Mari Ward won his third major championship in the past two months Friday when he captured the long jump title at the Pan American Junior Championships at Chan Chan Stadium in Trujillo, Peru.
A 2016 Cahokia High School graduate, the 19-year-old Ward had a wining leap of 7.77 meters (25 feet, 6 inches) as he defeated Gabriel M dos Santos Oliveira, of Brazil, (25-4 1/2) and Holland Martin, of the Bahamas, (25-1 3/4) for the championship.
Ward, who recently completed his freshman year at the University of Missouri, qualified for the Pan American Junior Championships by winning the United States Junior Championships with a leap of 25-7 1/2. The United States championship was the second straight for Ward, who, after winning the title last year, went on to place sixth in the IAAF World U20 Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
Earlier this spring, Ward captured the Southeastern Conference outdoor long jump title and was named the SEC Freshman Field Athlete of the Year for the outdoor season.
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Ward was unavailable for comment following his win Friday. But when reached Saturday, Cahokia track coach Leroy Millsap wasn’t surprised about Ward’s latest accomplishment.
“I’m not surprised in the least. He’s had a great couple of months, and he has always been a champion. He was a champion in high school; he’s already been a champion in college; he’s won national competitions and now he is a Pan-Am champion,” Millsap said. “But I am a little surprised the distance of the jumps down there. I thought the top guys would have longer jumps.”
A two-time Class 2A state champion in both the long jump and triple jump at Cahokia, Ward was also a two-time Gatorade State Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.