Former Cahokia High School standout and current University of Missouri freshman Ja’Mari Ward captured the Southeastern Conference outdoor long jump title Friday in Columbia, S.C.
A three-time Belleville News-Democrat track and field athlete of the year, Ward jumped a personal best 26 feet, 8 1/4 inches — in his final attempt — at the 2017 SEC Outdoor Track & Field Championships, which were held on the campus of the University of South Carolina.
The jump is the second-longest in Missouri history and the second-best in the nation this season.
“My coach just said move back and let it rip — and that’s what I did,” said Ward after the victory. “ I really just wanted to get in first place, so I can get my team some points. It’s a team sport, and that’s what I’m here to do — help the team win. It gave me a big confidence boost to come out here and win.”
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Ward qualified for the 2017 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, which begin June 7 in Eugene, Ore.
Ward was a two-time Class 2A state champion in both the long jump and triple jump at Cahokia, where he helped the Comanches win four straight state championships.
Ward went on to finish first in the long jump at the 2016 USA Track and Field Junior Outdoor Championships with a jump of 25 feet, 8 3/4 inches, and then went on to place 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.
Some of the information for this story was provided by the University of Missouri athletic web site.