Ja'mari Ward is the king of horizontal jumps in Illinois (Tony Holler photo credit)
The athlete (s) of the week has become a weekly staple for Milesplit Illinois in honoring the outstanding achievements of a worthy male and female athlete. This past week was significantly harder than in any time this season. There were so many potent performances that we could have named multiple athletes of the week! This only means one thing about Illinois track and field in general: times and marks with the assistance of good coaching and above average weather for this spring as a whole are the key contributors.
Congratulations to Ja’mari Ward (So., Cahokia) for taking his second AOTW honor of the season and Mariya Hudson (Fr., Cahokia) for her first girls award. It is the first time this season that one school has collected both genders accolades.
Ja’mari steams back strong-
Ja’mari Ward put himself in the position of being the hunted when busted out on the high school season as a freshman year with marks worthy of a four year crafty veteran. He continued his assault on the state competition as well as some of the best long and triple jumpers in the nation. He was able to hit his crescendo in the triple jump when he set the national high school sophomore triple jump record of 50-2.5 in February at the Troy Triad Knights Invitational. It appeared as though he was on his way to being the premier horizontal jumper in the country if not in Illinois history.
Ward had prepared to end his indoor season against the nation’s top ranked triple jumper Nate Moore of Castro Valley, California. Unfortunately their battle would not mature as Ward had to bow out of competition midway because of injury. Ward was more wounded from a psychological point of view verses a physical standpoint. He did not have his primary coach Leroy Millsap in attendance to help guide him. He grew up a little bit on his own.
After bypassing the Illinois Top Times, Ward eased back into competition at the Holt Invite in Missouri and won the long jump. Several weeks later he was back to himself. Finally, last weekend at the Winston Brown Invitational hosted by Edwardsville HS, Ward hit on his best ever performance as a high school athlete. He won the long jump with a 24-55 (+1.8) effort that is now US#5.
Ward has continued to climb the charts in his specialty the triple jump. After several key quality efforts in the Winton meet including a 49-foot leap he finally hit the jackpot. Ward popped a 50-6.5 (+0.9) US#1 wind legal mark. As good as Ward's performances were, Coach Millsap feels that he can top both marks this season. “Ward can get up to 52-feet this season,” Millsap has said in response to his ace athlete. The fans of Illinois and the USA cannot wait.
Cahokia two-step with Mariya Hudson-
Last year at this time Mariya Hudson busy doing work on the middle-school circuit and then finally the AAU summer national league. Hudson ultimately finished 8th in the youth girls 400m title.
Head Coach Roscoe Dowell with the assistance of boys coach Leroy Millsap have put in tremendous work in developing Hudson in the off-season. Now, the results are showing off big time. Hudson is undefeated in her young high school career in the 400m with a personal best of 55.46 (IL#3 overall/#1 in 2A). Hudson also has a 55.63 sizzler to back up her claim as a state title threat. Coach Dowell recently said of his star in the making, "The freshman (Mariya) Hudson is the real deal." That is an understatement to say the least. Hudson also ran 24.33 (#IL 3) in in the same race as the 55.63 mark last week at the Champaign Central Invitational. It now appears that the the stallion Ebony McClendon (Sr., Chicago Brooks) has a threat to her 200m crown.