Local track star receives invite to international competition halfway across the globe

Published 3:35 pm Saturday, April 14, 2018


The Washington Daily News

Thanks to her blistering sprint times, Southside track star Jacqueline Wood finds herself preparing to travel across the globe to represent North Carolina and the United States in the 18th Annual Down Under International Games in Australia this summer.

Wood, who’s already qualified for the NCHSAA 1-A East Regional in both the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints thanks to setting school records in both events, had a mix of emotions when she found out her performances earned her a trip to the land of kangaroos and koalas.

“I was kind of surprised but at the same time I was really excited when I found out,” the junior said. “I was kind of mind blown.”

“The Horse”, as she’s affectionately called by her teammates due to her speed and muscular legs, will leave for Queensland, Australia on July 8. There, Wood will compete for both individual honors and a team championship title as part of Team USA.

FINISHING STRONG: Southside track star Jacqueline Wood crosses the finish line to win the 100-meter sprint at a track meet held at Southside High School this past Wednesday. (Ashley Vansant\Daily News)

Sending a child almost 10,000 miles away from home without accompanying them would make any parent a little nervous and Wood’s mother, Susanne Wood, is no different. So of course she did some research on the Down Under International Games.

“I was very excited but I wanted to make sure it was legit, it was safe,” the proud mother said.

From her research, the Wood matriarch found out the Down Under International Games were started in 2000, with athletes from the United States and various other countries competing against each other. She describes the event as similar to the Goodwill Games, but on a smaller scale. Athletes from prior editions of the Down Under games have gone on to participate in the Summer Olympics as well.

This year Team USA will consist of 300 athletes, with representatives from all 50 states. The participants are selected by a network of coaches who look at sprint times and jumping distances and heights of athletes across the country, similar to recruiting done by college coaches.

The catch with being invited to take part in these games is each participant must raise money to cover the cost of the ten-day trip, with the track star needing to reach $5,000 to fund her journey. Wood, who dreams of earning a track scholarship and becoming an equine veterinary technician, will have a pancake and sausage dinner at the Chocowinity Fire Department on May 11 as part of her fundraising efforts. The dinner will run from 5-8 p.m.

As someone who trains with the boys on the track team to push herself to get faster, the prospect of competing with and against athletes from all of over country and around the world spurs Wood on even more to improve.

“I was actually motivating myself to push myself even more and I’m just trying to get better times as I go,” the sprinter said.