Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

July 4, 2013

GC TRACK & FIELD: 7-year-old star heads for Junior Olympics

Mike Phillips
Ron Farmer

Corsicana — They call it the Tiger Run.

The athletes at Corsicana High know all about it. The girls run up and down the visiting bleachers, then run a lap around the track and then run up and down the skyscaper-like home bleachers at Corsicana’s 10,001-seat Tiger Stadium.

It’s an ordeal.

Last week during the voluntary morning workouts more than 30 high school girls made the Tiger Run. The kid that finished 12th ended with a flurry, her arms up in the air.

That was Jayda Lunsford.

She’s 7.

You might want to remember Jayda’s name.

“She told me she wants to be the best in America,’’ said Terry Douglas, who runs the Corsicana Team Supreme Track Club, where Jayda started running as a 6-year-old.

Douglas believes her.

Believe it or not, Jayda will have the chance later this month when she competes in the AAU Junior Olympics in Michigan, where she will have a chance to win a national title in the 8-and-under division. Jayda won the long jump and finished fifth in the 200-meters last weekend in Fort Worth against the best 8-year-olds in North Texas to qualify for the Junior Olympics.

If she could, Jayda would run all the way to Michigan.

“She just loves to run,’’ said Jayda’s mother, Tanya Lunsford. “She has done a lot of things, basketball, soccer even competitive cheerleading, and she just wants to run. She’s really good in competitive cheerleading and learned to do a backflip in just two weeks. You would think she would love all the glitz and glamour that comes with cheerleading, but she came to me and said, ‘Mama, I don’t want to do this any more. I just want to run track.’’

Jayda runs all the time. She not only trains with Douglas and Team Supreme, but she goes with her sister, Destini, a sophomore who plays for Corsicana High’s girls basketball team, every morning to the stadium to work out with the high school girls.

“We went to Six Flags and Hurricane Harbor a couple of weeks ago and she was really tired when we got home that night, so I let her sleep in the next morning and she woke up and was so mad, saying, ‘Mama why didn’t you wake me up?I need to go run.’”

That’s Jayda, who never stops thinking about what it takes to win.

“She’s a perfectionist,’’ Douglas said, pointing to Jayda’ form as she runs — her arms  pumping in perfect rhythm. It’s not an accident.

When she’s at home, Jayda stands in front of  mirror and practices her technique, moving her arms like a robot in perfect symmetry.

“She does it all the time,’’ Tanya said. “We will be in the car and she will be sitting there moving her arms, practicing. She does it while she’s sitting in front of the TV.’’

And she runs everywhere.

“She runs all the time,’’ Tanya said. “She runs in the store. She runs in Wal-Mart. She runs everywhere, all the time. She just loves to run.’’

Jayda, who is already learning form and technique in the long jump, has her own ideas about landing in the sand pit.

“The long jump isn’t pretty,’’ she said with a serious face. “You’re going to get dirty.’’

It’s a 24-7 sport for Jayda, who is so dedicated at the age of 7 that when one of the parents of one of her teammates told her sprinters don’t eat cheese, Jayda swore off cheese.

“I tried to get her to eat a taco,’’ Destini said. “And she yelled, “I can’t eat this. It’s got cheese on it.’”

Tanya knows how serious Jayda is about track.

“She doesn’t drink soda, she doesn’t eat cheese,’’ Tanya said. “She only wants water because she knows that’s what sprinters drink. After she heard that sprinters don’t eat cheese, now she’s afraid to eat it.’’

Tanya said she knew her youngest daughter was different the day Jayda took her first steps.

“When she started walking she walked on her tippy-toes,’’ Tanya said. “She walked on her tippy-toes all the time.’’

Jayda’s life changed in the bleachers three years ago. Tanya and her children were at a Corsicana football game when Jayda was 4, and Tanya and Jayda were walking down the bleachers when Douglas saw them for the first time.

“He wanted her to run track then,’’ Tanya said. “He said she had great muscle tone and he wanted her to start running with his team. She was only 4.’’

Jayda joined the team when she was 6, and at times she steps out in front to help lead the older kids in drills.

“She’s not afraid to get in front of the line,’’ Douglas said. “For what she’s doing on the track, it’s just phenomenal, and her work ethic is off the charts. She’s so easy to coach because she loves what she’s doing.’’

Douglas has taken youngsters to the Junior Olympics before, but he has never had a 7-year-old qualify for the national meet. He knows how unique his tiny sprinter is.

“What you’re looking at you can’t coach it,’’ he said. “It’s the drive she has. The drive part, the drive to be a champion.’’

Jayda runs in practice with a determined look on her face that tells you everything you need to know about her. And even at 7, she already knows what it takes to push herself.

She had to compete in a district meet three weeks ago to qualify for the North Texas regional meet in Fort Worth.

Her qualifying time for the regional meet in the in the 200 meters had her seeded 12th at Fort Worth. Only the top five qualified for the Junior Olympics.

Jayda made up her mind to make it to Michigan, where the Junior Olympics will be held on the campus of Eastern Michigan University.

In two weeks leading up to the regional meet, Jayda took three seconds off her 200-meter time and ran a 34.0 at Fort Worth to finish fifth and earn the trip to Michigan.

She finished first in the long jump with a leap of 10 feet and nine inches.

She also learned a lot about humility at Fort Worth.

“Everybody there was talking about how good they were,’’ Jayda said. “I was just sitting there and not saying anything. One girl kept saying she was going to beat everybody, and I beat her.

“I just don’t talk about it. If you say you are going to win and say I’m going to beat all y’all you might not win,’’ Jayda said. “I don’t think that’s a good thing. I’m just quite.’’

Tanya said that in itself speaks volumes.

“Well, her teachers at school call her a social hurricane,’’ Tanya said with a laugh.

Jayda is an honor student at Bowie Elementary, where she will be in third grade this fall.

But before then, she has some big track meets to compete in, including the state meet next week in College Station.

“When (Douglas) met us and said she should run track I just blew it off,’’ Tanya said. “I didn’t think kids ran track at that age. But she loves it. She just loves to run.’’

They call her Super J and Tanya calls her little Flo-Jo. but even at 7, Jayda is making a name for herself in her own way.

“She just has so much drive,’’ Douglas said. “She’s an inspiration to me.’’