TUSCOLA — Before he even got in the starting blocks for his final race of the day, the 200-meter dash, Jacardia Wright made a promise.
He looked at teammate Justice Chapman, whom Wright calls his son, and told him the race mattered beyond winning his fourth of four possible events on Tuesday at the Central Illinois Conference boys track and field meet at Tuscola.
This particular race was for Nancy Rodgers, the mother of Wright's best friend Stanley Rodgers who died unexpectedly last year. Nancy Rodgers was like a mother to Wright. He knew exactly how to honor her.
Wright burst from the blocks and made the turn for the final 100 meters. He felt good. He turned on the jets, head tilted back slightly, mouth wide open and legs moving as if they were powering a locomotive train.
He cruised past the starting line for the win and immediately pointed to the sky at Nancy Rodgers. Later, he tapped his left shoulder where a tattoo memorializes her. It was the first time he's participated in the 200-meter dash in high school.
“I told him that was for Nancy," Wright said. "I gave it all I got."
In the end, it was a meet record time of 22.59 seconds and was his fourth win in as many events. He also won the long jump (21 feet), 100-meter dash (11.43) and was on the winning 4x100-meter relay team (44.15) for the Bulldogs, who placed second place as a team behind only Tuscola.
For Wright, it was one of the few things left to do in high school before he heads to play football at Kansas State. Traditionally, he's been a long jumper, but he's been more locked in for the home stretch of his final track season.
“I’ve never won conference in four events," Wright said. "I’ve always got long jump. It was the last thing left for me to do. It’s my senior year. I was glad I was able to get out here and get four wins."
Jorden Tedford completes perfect day, Owen Terneus grabs two wins
Just after Jorden Tedford finished his lap as the anchor leg in Warrensburg-Latham's 4x400-meter relay team, he caught his breath and walked to the infield. A meet volunteer asked Tedford if the Cardinals just set a personal record.
He shrugged. He doesn't concern himself with that kind of stuff. If he did, his mind would wander away from the ultimate goal. For the record, the time was 3 minutes, 37.69 seconds.
What Tedford did know, however, was that he also won all four of his events at the CIC meet. First he cleared 6-foot-4 in the high jump, but he wanted 6-foot-8. Then he won the triple jump with a leap of 42 feet, 4 inches. Later he was on the Cardinals' winning 4x200-meter relay (1:34.79) team and 4x400 relay team.
It wasn't a bad day for someone who considered himself to be struggling a bit entering the meet.
“I feel like I’m coming out of a little slump. I hope good things happen," said Tedford, who is the reigning Class 1A high jump champion.
Owen Terneus started the 4x4 relay and capped off a pair of his own wins for the Cardinals. He also won the 800-meter run with a time of 2:07.84. He found another gear in the second lap and broke free for a win.
“I felt so great during that," Terneus said. "That was one of my best races in a while because I was able to get that kick at the end. That really helped."
He's signed to run at the University of Illinois-Chicago next season. At first, the weight of running in college consumed him, but he's since settled into his role.
“I was really nervous at the start of the year," he said. "I thought I had a standard I had to get to because of college, but I realized I don’t. If I act normal then I can output normally."
Healthy Ben Dixon gets win
For a while, Tuscola boys track coach Ryan Hornaday's workout sheet for Ben Dixon simply read, "light workouts."
A hamstring injury has slowed Dixon's junior year. He couldn't ramp up to 100 percent as he worked back healthy, so he focused on technique. That focus paid off on Tuesday with a win in the 110-meter hurdles in 17.18 seconds. It was the first time Dixon has run the 110 hurdles this season.
“I obviously wanted to win, but I didn’t know it was going to be that smooth," Dixon said.
Hornaday was elated to have Dixon back in the lineup.
“He’s a great kid — incredibly polite and very humble," Hornaday said. "Usually you think of somebody who is explosive. A sprinter or a hurdler, usually they’ve got a lot of personality. He’s just a humble, quiet kid who just goes about his work. I’m just glad to have him back."