One of the world’s best junior field athletes is taking the summer off, right when some of the most high profile elite competitions are getting started.
As reported by the Belleville News-Democrat, Cahokia track and field superstar Ja’Mari Ward is taking a self-imposed leave of absence to give an ankle injury time to heal. The decision to temporarily step away from the track follows the junior’s latest two-step Illinois state title in the long jump and triple jump. Ward injured his right ankle at the state meet a year earlier, in 2014, but kept on competing, breaking the Illinois state track meet record in the long jump and Class 2A state meet record in the triple jump with a leap before traveling to New Mexico for the Great Southwest Classic and a trip to Cuba, where he was part of an international jumping competition. He won the long jump at the Great Southwest Classic and placed third in Cuba.
“I really don’t like sitting around much. But this is what’s best. I’d rather take a break now and let the ankle completely heal then keep jumping and maybe causing some real damage. I want to be able to be at my best next year,” Ward told the News-Democrat. “What am I going to do? I’m going to start looking at colleges and maybe train a little bit.”
Ward already had to briefly take a break from jumping due to chronic pain in his ankle in March. That brief 10-day non-jumping stretch helped, but it couldn’t ease the pain to a point where he could compete without concern, leading to the difficult decision to step away for the summer.
According to his high school coach, the break won’t dim his longer term potential, which includes comparison to one of track and field’s all-time greats.
“He reminds me a little bit of Carl Lewis,” Cahokia coach Leroy Miller told the News-Democrat. “He’s a student of the sport. He’s always working and trying to find ways to get better and stronger. But he’s also got three things which are tough to teach. Ja’Mari has great speed, he’s explosive and most of all, he hates to lose.”