Dillard track star Jamika Glades overcomes hurdles in life

By Charles Moseley

Imagine not knowing where you were going to live from week to week. Imagine being a teenage mother. Now try to imagine what it would be like to balance all of that while maintaining an A average in school and becoming a state champion while competing for your high school track team?

Jamika Glades has had to deal with some things in her life for many years that most of her senior classmates would never have to experience. Because of the choices she made as a teenager, she has endured the consequences of her actions, taking on the role of a parent before she had reached adult-hood.

Faced with an uncertain future, she could either stand up to the challenge or give up and throw in the towel. Instead, she decided to literally get back into the race which ultimately changed the direction that her life was heading, thus placing her on the right track.

Today she has taken full charge of her life and turned what could have been a negative situation into a positive one. She even wants to share her story with those who may be facing a similar situation in their lives.

“As a young girl out of elementary, I was always the smart, athletic individual in the family. I started off being a cheerleader for the Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes youth football team to keep me busy and continued cheering at Arthur Ashe Middle School. While at Arthur Ashe, I also tried out for other sports such as soccer, softball and flag football. However, there was this one sport that I liked the most, Track and Field. I realized that I was pretty good at this sport and fell in love with it. Life became hectic; we began moving from place to place. I constantly tried my best to keep myself motivated in school. In the summer after my eighth grade year, I found out I was expecting a baby boy,” said Glades.

These were some of the hurdles that Jamika Glades had to deal with in life. The obstacles Jamika faced would be difficult enough to bear for an adult; she was barely out of adolescence when her world was turned upside down. Jamika found out early that life can often be unkind.

”On Sept. 21, 2008, I gave birth to Anthony Jennings III. Soon after, I found out that I can still run track for Dillard, being that Seagull didn’t have any sports. So, I did all of the paperwork required and once December came for conditioning, I became a part of the Dillard High School Track Team. I continued back and forth between both schools for both my ninth and tenth grade years. Toward the end of my tenth grade year, my mom lost her job.”

One day things appeared to reach the breaking point in Glades life. Faced with the over-whelming pressures which seemed to be mounting Jamika sought help in the only way she felt she could. Her situation seemed so hopeless that it pro-mpted the young teen to post a startling comment on her Facebook page. Fortunately for Jamika her comment did not go unnoticed. In fact Kelly Johnson a long time family friend took notice of Jamika’s com-ent. Johnson responded Jamika’s plea for help.

“I had known Jamika and her family since she was a little girl. I worked at a daycare center and used to give Jamika a ride home from school so I was very familiar with her situation. Ordinarily I didn’t have any children as Friends on my Facebook page with the exception of Jamika. One day I noticed that she stated that she was “sick and tired” on her Facebook Page. To me I thought this meant I felt she was in trouble and in need of someone to help her with her situation. So I decided to take her in and she’s been with me ever since.”

Coach Gill first became aware of Glades when he became her track coach at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale. He recalled that initially there was nothing outstanding about his future star athlete.

“When I first got to know her as a coach she was one of the few athletes who I found out that had, had a kid. As I found out more about her I met her guardian who was not even a blood relative. She came from a situation where her parents weren’t even able to provide for her so that seemed pretty interesting to me as far as the amount of effort that she was putting into school and track. With her having a kid she had to do so much and still keeping her head on her shoulder. Her aunt made sure that she stayed on the right path. She changed her whole eating habit. The more she worked hard the more I tried to get her into school. Once she became committed she went from just an average athlete to becoming a state champion in one year. Once she got a taste of success she became more determined to succeed.”

Ultimately her work paid off resulting in winning the high school state title as the number one runner in her event, the 300 meter intermediate hurdles as well as running the ninth fastest time in the nation for high school runners in the same event.

“Track season of 2011 became my break out year. This was the year when we got a new coach, Coach Davidson Gill. He had the ability to motivate and train the team in an outstanding and uplifting way. The team looked up to him in many aspects of life. He deserves to be highly accredited; I came from being an average runner to an elite hurdler. I became one of the top hurdlers in South Florida and I am very proud of that. Several goals were met: 2011 BCAA County Champion in both hurdles also 2011 FHSAA Class 3A State Champion in the 100 meter hurdles. That wasn’t the end; I knew many other competitors were coming back next year to defeat me. Knowing that, I became even more dedicated. Starting in the summer, I trained for cross country to build my endurance and strength. Then along came track season of my senior year. I defended my title of BCAA County Champion in both hurdles for 2012. Un-fortunately, I didn’t defend my title of state champion in the 100 meter hurdles. However, I earned the title of 2012 FHSAA Class 3A State Champion in the 300 meter hurdles.”

“Coach Davidson, my aunt, Kelly Johnson, and my grand-dad, John Davis are some of the biggest influences in my life. They entered into my life just in time to save my future. I couldn’t have gotten this far without them. Being successful in track in order to receive a full scholarship was my ultimate goal throughout high school. That dream came true. The University of Miami offered me a full scholarship and I was certainly glad to accept the offer.”

Glades plans to continue reaching her goals over the next four years at the University of Miami where she intends on earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting and/or Business Management and continuing track and field at the University of Miami. In the future, I see myself with a college degree, having a good-paying job also being a Dillard High School and University of Miami alumnus. I’m working hard at being a wonderful mother. She also has set her sights on competing on the professional track circuit and one day representing her country in the Olympics.

Vernon Dooling has been a youth counselor for over 30 years. He grew to know Jamika after watching her compete against his daughters who also ran high school track.

“Jamika has mastered her circumstances just like she has mastered the hurdles. She has used wht most people would consider to be barriers to excel to the Victory Lane of life. I predict that Jamika’s future is filled with opportunities to make a difference in the lives of other young ladies and our com-munity. She has competed with my daughter and certainly set the bar high. When you compete against her better be able to run,” said Dooling.

Glades may not have been dealt the best hand in the world and has had her share of ups and downs over the past few years however she refused to let the hand she has been dealt define who she is. Instead she persevered and continued to pursue the goals she set in life.

“To any young person who may be facing some challenges in life, my advice would be to always stay focused on your ultimate goal, never give up on it, and do whatever it takes to succeed in life. If something negative comes up or there is an obstacle you are trying to overcome, just stay motivated and linger more on the positive aspects rather than the negative. I realized that balancing motherhood, school, and athletics would be the biggest challenge in my life, but that didn’t stop me. From then on, I continued to keep focus in school, on the track, and as a mother,” added Glades.

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