Illinois Stars Past and Present Star At USATF Junior Nationals

Ja'mari Ward jumped to an incredible length last summer in Poland (Getty images)

The record setting temperatures were not the only thing steaming in Sacramento, California at the USATF Junior National Championships. Some of the nations elite track and field athletes battled climes that reached past 110 degrees. Several former and current college and high school performers from Illinois who were under 20 years competed well. The top two performers are eligible for the Pan-Am Juniors in Peru next month.

Young Men-

Ja'mari Ward (University of Missouri/Cahokia)- Ward did not long jump at the NCAA round several weeks ago nor did he surpass his legal collegiate best 26-8.25, but he was able to return and win his second consecutive junior title. He connected on his 25-7.50 on his third attempt but passing on his final two attempts.

Zach Bradford (Bloomington) did not clear the opening pole vault height 16-4.75.

Anthony McRoberts (Illinois State/Cahokia) just missed grabbing second place in the high jump. He cleared 6-10.75 and had three opportunities at the next height 7-0.50 to make the Pan Am team.

Young Women-

Jelena Rowe (Chicago Heights Bloom) lost her first high jump competition of the season at the then #1 meet of the year New Balance Outdoor Nationals. The US #1 performer indoors and outside quickly distanced herself from that malady and got back to winning. Rowe skipped on the opening height 5-5 and preceded to take just one attempt in succession up until 5-11.50. Rowe's winning effort 5-10.5 was more than enough to win by a foot over Saana Barnes (Texas HS).

Jaimie Robinson (Homewood-Flossmoor) reportedly rocked the nation with a 44-4 (nwi) triple jump last weekend at an AAU district meet, but the wonderful performance fell on deaf ears and eyes and did not receive its proper respect. This time though in the watchful California environment, Robinson put all naysayers and sleepers to bed with a legal all-time Illinois mark and US#1 minted 43-10.5 (+1.5) on her first attempt. In the process, Robinson beat previous US leader Jasmine Moore (Texas) who happens to be the national sophomore record holder as well as indoor and outdoor high school title holder. Moore tried to mount a comeback with a 43-6.50 on her sixth and final attempt. But it was masterful performance by Robinson which moved her into the #7 all-time performer position.... Robinson competed earlier in the long jump and placed 4th (19-10.25).

Kathleen "KD" Young (Warrensburg-Latham) took third in a highly competitive field shot put field. The Illinois all-time record holder tossed the steel ball 52-3.25 on her final attempt. Young had thrown 52-2.75 in her initial attempt which was a leading mark... Young competed in the hammer throw earlier in the competition and placed 6th with a toss of 177'.

Kierra Griggs (U of Nebraska/Bloom Twp HS) competed in the 400m prelim and ran 55.04 for 14th place overall.

Judy Pendergast (Harvard University/Naperville North HS) placed 2nd in the 3000m apparently as a trial run clocking 9:49.97. Pendergast will forfeit her placement instead to concentrate on cross country this fall.