Competing in varsity track and field has taken Jah’Lia Evans and Ja’Taria Jackson to some new places. And their participation in USA Track and Field events has led to a few more.
The destination they are preparing for at the end of the month, however, is a place neither of them thought they would ever go.
Both Rome High students will travel to Sacramento, California, for the USATF Hershey National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships following their qualifying performances last weekend at the Region 4 Junior Olympic Championships in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
“It’s a big life experience that I never thought I would be doing, I mean, ever,” Jackson said before a practice at Barron Stadium.
The national championships will be held July 22-28 at Sacramento State’s Hornet Stadium.
Jackson, who will be a senior when classes resume in August, finished fifth in the 17-18 women’s 100-meter dash in South Carolina with a time of 12.34 seconds, good enough to lock in a spot at the nationals.
Evans, meanwhile, won her division’s title in both the triple jump and the 100 hurdles at the Region 4 meet, which included the top junior athletes from Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.
“I was nervous, but not nervous,” Evans said of her time at regionals. “It was both ways because I had already gone up against most of the other people before at state or in high school.”
The rising junior won the triple jump with a leap of 12.01 meters, more than a meter farther than the second-place finisher. She then won the 100 hurdles with a time of 15.48 seconds, which ties her personal record.
Evans also won the triple jump title at the USATF Georgia State Junior Olympics in June, where both Jackson and her qualified for the regional meet.
Jackson said it was important for her to keep her mind on her objective at region despite the opportunity of qualifying for nationals.
“I treat every track meet like it’s just a normal meet,” she said. “I don’t really focus on the atmosphere or the vibe. I just focus on competing and doing my best.”
It was just last year that Rome hosted the Region 4 championships and had just two local athletes compete among the more than 5,000 in town over the four days.
Evan and Jackson were there and helped Rome High track and field coach Nick Bridges by volunteering during the event.
“We went from hosting 5,500 athletes last year where we only had two local competitors to now sending two athletes from here to nationals,” Bridges said. “That’s huge. It doesn’t get any bigger than this.
“On top of that, for Jah’Lia to win the regional championship in both the hurdles and triple jump is fantastic.”
The thing is, Evans has only been competing in the triple jump since April. She said her success in the event has been a pleasant surprise.
“It felt good to win the triple jump. I didn’t know how good I could be in that when I first started, but sometimes you don’t know until you try,” Evans said.
Patrons who dine with these local vendors throughout the week of July 15-20 will help send Evans and Jackson to nationals with a portion of the proceeds going to the cost of the trip.
Here is the Spirit Week schedule:
-Monday, July 15 from Noon - 9 p.m. at Johnny’s Pizza, 233 Broad St.
-Tuesday, July 16 from 5 p.m. - 10 p.m. at Jimmy John’s, 487 Turner McCall Blvd. NE, and Sam’s Burger Deli, 3268 Martha Berry Hwy.
-Wednesday, July 17 from 5 p.m. - 10 p.m. at Jefferson’s, 340 Broad St.
-Thursday, July 18 from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. at Moe’s Original BBQ, 101 W. 1st St., and 5 p.m. - 10:30 p.m. at Mellow Mushroom, 238 Broad St.
-Friday, July 19 from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. at Brewhouse Bar and Grill, 325 Broad St., and all day at Frios, 202 Broad St.
-Saturday, July 20, Applebee’s at 826 Turner McCall Blvd. is hosting a pancake breakfast and Brewhouse Bar and Grill will be donating a portion of their proceeds on sales from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. and all day at Frios.
Changes and updates will be posted on the Rome City Schools Facebook page.
Greene’s Jewelers and High Voltage Prints have already given donations. To donate or help in any way, please contact Bridges at email@example.com.