XENIA — Through tears of gratitude, Africa Strodes thanked her friends, family and coaches for their support throughout her high school track career. On Friday, Strodes, a three-sports standout at Xenia High School in girls basketball, volleyball, and track & field, celebrated the signing of her National Letter of Intent signing to attend Bowling Green State University on a track scholarship.
“I just want to thank everybody for coming out and supporting me,” Strodes said, through her tears. “It’s been a long journey and I really appreciate what each of you have done for me through the years. I don’t know how many times I needed gas money to get home from practice, but someone was there.”
“I’d like to say thanks to my mom: Anytime I needed something, she’d tell me not to worry about it. We were going to get it done.”
With her senior Track & Field season still ahead of her, Strodes currently is the school record holder in the long jump (18 feet, 4.75 inches) and in the triple jump (36 feet, 3.5 inches).
Last season Strodes competed at the Ohio High School Athletic Association state championships in the long jump, and teamed with Tiese Carr, Mekayla Pullens and Tatum Washington in the 400 relay. Strodes finished sixth in the long jump; the relay team placed third.
She’s qualified and competed in the USATF National Junior Olympics in the long jump and triple jump, and has run in the USATF Ohio Junior Championships in the 200-meter dash.
“She didn’t even think about college when she first started high school track,” Strodes’ mother, Carina Johnson, said. “But two years ago, when she called me on the phone to tell me that she’d just jumped 18 (feet) at a meet, I told her then, ‘Yep, you’re going to college.’”
“We’re all so very proud of her. She’s worked really hard for this.”
Xenia track coach Cedric Tolbert said Strodes “raised the bar” for high school athletes to attain in the future.
“She’s a wonderful person and a hard working person. She comes to practice early and would leave late, and she’d always want to help the younger kids. We’d have study tables and she’d always be there to help out. Lauren McCormick (Class of 2006) was the first to get to college,” Tolbert said. “Lauren set the bar, but Africa has truly raised the bar by reaching the college level in sprinting and the long jump.”
McCormick, a University of Dayton track standout, was on hand to celebrate with Strodes.
“It’s really exciting because it’s like a trickle-down effect for the Xenia track team,” McCormick said. “Even if the students who are here don’t pursue track, they can see that hard work can take you to great places rather than settling for less.”
Strodes currently has earned 11 varsity letters in girls basketball, girls volleyball, and track & field combined. She has served as a team captain on all three teams as well.
“This is big for me, and I’m really proud … I won’t let any of you down,” Strodes said.