PAHOKEE — Jatoria McGirt of Pahokee finished 10th in the 200 meters at the National Junior College Athletic Association National Championships on May 20, in Hutchison, Kansas.
McGirt also finished 13th in the 100 meters. She ran the 100 meters in 11.99 seconds and the 200 in 24.94 seconds. She is a member of the Cloud County Community College track team.
It has been a very successful season for the former Blue Devil. She won her first college race in February and finished second in the Kansas Relays in April.
McGirt had a rough childhood as her father went to prison, her uncle was found dead in a canal and her family was poor. She actually dropped out of school to care for her younger brothers and sisters.
Enter Pastor Randall King, who knew folks in Kansas and Cloud County. He helped to get her a break and McGirt took it from there. King has worked with foster kids to try and improve their lives.
She started with the adult education program, got help from volunteer tutors and was finally able to pass a GED test to enroll in college.
Track Coach Ted Schmitz said King told him he had a pretty good runner who was hoping for an opportunity.
“He felt it would be best for her to move from Florida. We got her into the adult education program, provided tutoring assistance, and she started on her journey,” he added.
McGirt only started to run in the spring but was able to qualify for the nationals in the 100 meters and as part of the 4×100 meter relay squad.
“She has definitely had a good impact. I expect better things by the end of the year and especially down the road next year,” he added.
Schmitz said the Dean of Students said she had never seen a student work harder to get a GED. She was able to pass the science, math and language parts of the GED, but struggled when it came to social studies.
“Her work ethic as far as the time she put in studying has steadily grown. She realized that she definitely had to step up her game. She put in substantially more time than she was accustomed to and she has grown a lot in her attitude, work ethic, and now she is excited about her education,” he added.
McGirt now wants to read books all the time and expand her knowledge in all the subjects.
“She hadn’t been exposed to a lot of education as a child and she has grown a lot. I’m hoping for some good things from her academically and athletically,” he added.
Athletics haven’t been a problem. Schmitz said it is rare for athletes to have this much of an impact as a freshman. It is tough to qualify for the national track meet.
“I think she will run even faster. Getting to nationals was a great accomplishment. Our goal is to hopefully go for a top spot next year,” he added.
Cloud County Community College is located in Concordia, Kansas, and has a population of approximately 6,000 residents.
Schmitz said the entire community is proud of what McGirt has accomplished.
“We are very proud of her. She has passed a big hurdle in her life. We will do what we can to help her achieve more,” he added.
Attempts to reach McGirt were unsuccessful.