DECATUR, Miss. (WTOK) Jada McDougle had always been seen as a standout softball player for Newton County.
During her sophomore year, she decided it was time to try a new sport after receiving some encouragement from friends.
“My friends kept telling me how fun track was," McDougle said. "I was starting to get a little burnt out with softball and just decided to try it."
McDougle's sophomore year was Ashlee Walker’s first year as head coach of the girls' track team at Newton County. Walker had known who Jada was from her time playing softball, but was looking forward to helping her dive into something new.
“I was incredibly excited when Jada joined the team," Coach Walker said. "When she first stared running track, she was obviously fast but of course we had to work with her technique. She just continued to grow throughout the season.”
During McDougle's first season on the track and field team, she quickly proved how committed she was to improving in the sport. That desire to improve with her natural athleticism made her unstoppable and landed her in the finals of the state track meet her first year competing.
She ran in the finals for the 100 and 200 meter dash and shattered expectations – winning both events while also breaking the state meet record in the 100 meter dash with a time of 11.82.
“When she broke the record at the state meet, it was absolutely incredible to see her place first in the 100 and the 200 meter dash," Coach Walker said. "Just being there at the finish line, it was just amazing.”
McDougle shared how support from family helped alleviate some of the anxiety of competing in her first state track meet.
“I was like ‘mom, I’m really nervous…all these girls are here and they’re really fast’ but the support was all there," McDougle recalled. "It was really nice to have people there that said, ‘you can do this, we’re going to be right here’ and as soon as I got done they were waiting by the gate for me which made me really happy.”
After a breakout sophomore year, Jada was sidelined for track her junior year after tearing her ACL in a flag football game, but that didn’t stop college scouts from taking notice of her.
Schools like Syracuse, Stanford and Louisiana-Monroe recruited Jada but when her dream school came knocking, she quickly answered the door.
“I’ve always wanted to go to Mississippi State," McDougle said. "I had wanted to go there for softball and the fact that I love wearing maroon it’s just another thing that adds onto the feeling of knowing I’ll be home.”
Coach Walker believes MSU will be a great fit for McDougle and is happy she'll still be close to home.
“Her at MSU is absolutely amazing. This is her dream college and when she was offered various scholarships to go compete at other colleges I feel like she made the best decision to compete at Mississippi State," Coach Walker said. "I will definitely be at some of the track meets to support her.”
Not having a full senior season of track and field makes competing in college even better for Jada. She is appreciative of the opportunity to continue on with the sport she has grown to love.
“I’ve very excited and I’m very blessed," McDougle said. "I know there are some student-athletes that did not get that opportunity. I’ve just been thanking god for that opportunity...thanking him a lot."