One area track coach put it best: Jorden Tedford never has a bad day.
Maybe that’s not exactly the case. Everyone has a bad day every now and again, but good luck figuring out if any given day is a bad one for Tedford.
It’s exactly what makes Tedford, a Warrensburg-Latham senior, so fun to watch. Sports are hard; they’re frustrating. Not showing that frustration is nearly as daunting a task as playing the sport.
This isn’t one of those, “Look at this kid having all of that fun,” type of columns. Sports are more fun than frustration. It’s why people play them and why we sit down and dedicate hours to watching them.
But Tedford has a unique way of making the biggest stage look like yet another practice on another windy, rainy day in the middle of April.
Take the preliminary races at the Class 1A boys state track and field meet on Thursday, for example. He took the baton on the final leg of the 4x400-meter relay. His team was fighting, to no avail, for a time good enough to get to Saturday.
Tedford was wildly sprinting to the finish line, but took the time to look at Champaign St. Thomas More anchor leg Bobby Kapolnek and say, “Let’s catch this guy.”
Who does that? Who has enough in the tank to strike up a conversation with a competitor in a sport that each breath is treated as precious gold in an attempt to conserve as much as possible before crossing the finish line.
“He does,” relay teammate Addison Hortin said, pointing to Tedford “He’s a professional.”
Of course, as Tedford recalled it, Kapolnek wasn’t in the conversational mood. Who can blame him?
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“He didn’t reply,” Tedford said, then shrugged.
Though the 4x4 team didn't advance to finals this season, Tedford will compete on Saturday in the Class 1A finals of the triple jump, on the 4x200 relay team and in the high jump, where he's the defending state champion.
Entering state last season, Tedford was a relative unknown. He went to the state track meet in Charleston without anyone really knowing that he was going to be the one to walk out of O’Brien Stadium as the Class 1A high jumping champion. After all, the kid is scared of heights. He wasn’t exactly the Vegas odds on favorite to win.
Not only did he win, he was captivating in the process — a made-for-the-camera athlete who is at the top of his class. In case you haven’t heard, he’s a bit of a shouter before he jumps. Kind of hard to not direct your attention to the 6-foot-4 springboard yelling at the top of his lungs. Then he started his own clap, which was immediately followed up by the fans in the stands. Consider them invested in the outcome of Tedford’s jump, which was 6-foot-8, by the way.
When he cleared the bar, he started back flipping on the map and celebrating around the back of the end zone, where the high jump mat is located.
People ate it up.
Talking to him was like it was another meet on another day. Sure, he got so worked up that he nearly passed out from yelling, but he joked around and talked about how he ignored his marks and just went.
And damn if it wasn’t fun to watch.
Stories of Tedford’s unique personality go beyond Charleston meets. At the Illinois Top Times meet at the Shirk Center on the campus of Illinois Wesleyan in March, there was plenty of shouting and clapping and flipping and winning. Par for the course. Afterwards, he threw on a pair of red, plaid pajama pants and bounced around the Shirk Center, photo-bombing teammates’ photos in the process.
It was simply fun, for everybody — the way sports should be.