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Track and field: Fideles Christian's Jamie Gray shines in the heptathlon

At track meets, Jamie Gray sometimes finds herself competing in three events at once. That act requires efficiency and quickness, which calls for the elimination of certain time-sucks.

For example: shoelaces. Gray has shoes for the long jump and high jump, and others for the shot put, and when she’s done with one pair, she just yanks them off her feet.

The crudeness of her routine isn’t reflected in the results, though. Gray, who is homeschooled but competes for Fideles Christian School in Cumming, did four individual events at the GICAA Division II state qualifier meet on April 12. She won the high jump, shot put and 100-meter hurdles and finished second in the long jump.

The small-school caveat doesn’t really apply to Gray: Her marks in the events she won would have earned her the same place or tied her for first at the Region 5-7A meet, and in the long jump, she would have placed seventh. In the summer club season, Gray will move into full heptathlon competition, adding the 200 meters, javelin and 800 to her workload, and she’ll compete in multis in college at Liberty University, also doing the pentathlon during the indoor season.

“It's a joy to watch her run, because she executes so well in all her events,” Fideles track coach John Camp said. “It's just fun to watch.”

Gray fell into the multis almost by inheritance. Her sister, Jordan, competes in those events at Kennesaw State and is one of the best collegiate multis athletes in the country, finishing seventh in the heptathlon at the NCAA Championships in 2017. Jordan didn’t compete for Fideles – the Rangers didn’t have a program until last school year – but she competed for the Heat Track Club in Marietta. Those coaches figured that Jamie had talent as well, and she started running in eighth grade.

Jamie Gray competes in the 100-meter hurdles during the GICAA Division II state qualifier meet on April 12, 2018 at Morgan County High School. Photo courtesy Kate Tate.
At first, Jamie Gray didn’t like track much, as she was occupied with volleyball. But she eventually realized that her talents lay outside the gym, and she had the same kind of all-around skillset as her sister, making multis a logical path.

“The multis just kind of happened,” Gray said. “Because I’m not extremely good at one event – I’m just kind of pretty good at all the events.”

Gray tends to be best at the ones that involve jumping, like the hurdles and high jump, natural spots for the vertical she developed as a hitter in volleyball. Those are the events she’d most likely specialize in if she were a non-multis athlete, but that life, less exhausting as it may be, doesn’t appeal to Gray.

“I think it’s more stressful,” she said. “Because in the heptathlon, if you screw up one event, you can still do pretty well.”

Gray’s most significant recent heptathlon showing was a 12th-place finish at last year’s Junior Olympics. She doesn’t have a chance to compete or medal in the event in scholastic competition, but Gray’s versatility is still evident in how her coaches use her.

“She fills a lot of gaps on our team,” Camp said.

Gray is homeschooled as well, and 2017 was her first year competing for a high school team. Her parents were looking for a spot for Gray’s brother, Josh, and Jamie came along. She also plays volleyball for the Rangers.

The club scene is where Gray finds her best competition and gains the most applicable experience for college, but she’s come to appreciate the team environment that she finds at Fideles. She acts as one of the team’s leaders and mentors in the field events and hurdles.

The GICAA state championship meet, scheduled for Friday and Saturday in Barnesville, will be Gray’s last high school competition. She hopes to set PRs and get first in long jump – the mark she recorded at the state qualifier meet was almost six inches off her personal best for the year.

And, thankfully, she’ll avoid the 800 meters, her least favorite event of the heptathlon. Even the most versatile athletes have their weak spots.

“I’m not built for running long distances,” Gray said.