Prince Edward student wins state championship in the long jump

Published 5:58 am Wednesday, March 22, 2023

FARMVILLE – Makayla Nelson wants to make a career out of running track. Since starting in sixth grade, the Prince Edward student has made it her focus to excel at the competition. Now a junior at Prince Edward County High, she can add state champion to her list of achievements. 

This past month, Makayla claimed first place in the long jump category at the Virginia High School League (VHSL) Indoor State Championships. She placed with a jump of 17 feet, 4 inches. But the road to first place was certainly not an easy one. After suffering an ankle injury during the winter, Makayla had to spend the majority of January and February recuperating. And yet, despite this and previous injuries sustained at an earlier event, Makayla was able to hit 17’4 and claim the state title. 

Though this is not her first time winning this category, Makayla’s ability to persevere through immense difficulty is truly what proves she has a winners’ spirit. With multiple injuries and a close competition, it’s difficult for someone to see why athletes like Makayla keep coming back for more. But there is something to be said about the dedication to setting, improving, and achieving not just the goals of the team you are a part of, but your own goals for yourself. When talking about her favorite parts about Track and Field, Makayla offered insight as to why she continues to remain passionate about her sport. 

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“It offers a lot of self improvement,” Makayla said. “Not only is it physical conditioning and learning new skills, but it’s a mental thing as well. If I’ve had a bad day, then track is an outlet for me”. 

The road to success

Makayla has had a dedication for the sport since her early days. She started track and field in her sixth grade year and has been training with the hopes of pursuing a future in athletics ever since. With goals of making it on a top university team, Makayla also has her sights set on making a career out of her skills and hard work. 

 “My goal is Division I for college. I hope it’s something that I can do for the rest of my life,” she said. 

Makayla’s hopes for continuing track and field into college is only reinforced with  her coach’s support. Prince Edward High Track Coach James Baker has been a part of the district since 1977, when he joined as a substitute coach. And he has been helping students achieve standards of excellence ever since.  His work as a physical education instructor at Prince Edward schools has not gone unrecognized. Coach Baker was awarded the Coach of the Year award in 2020 for his work  

“It teaches you perseverance and it requires a certain amount of self discipline,” he said, when asked what programs like track and field give students. “There’s only one person that can make you good. And it’s not me. You have to learn to push yourself.”

Important aspects for a Prince Edward student

While sports like track and field are individualistic in nature, that doesn’t mean one aspect is more important. On the contrary, according to both Makayla and Coach Baker, one of the most important aspects of track and field is that there is so much more to the sport than just sprinting on a track.  Not to say sprinting isn’t a part of it. But as Makayla puts it, “it’s so much more than running”.  

There is enough diversity for everyone to have a chance. In a sport that includes every area of sport including shot-put, sprints, hurdles, jumps, runs, and much more, the versatility of the sport is what makes it appealing to anyone of any age.

“I’ve been to meets where they have kids about 5-6 years running and they have people out there running who are 10 years older than me,” Baker said. “It’s a life sport that you can do for a long time”. 

Evelyn Wozniak wrote this story for the Farmville Herald.