Jaylen Lloyd photo from 2022 NON by Becky Holbrook, courtesy of RunnerSpace.com/DyeStat.com
“Just thinking about it now gives me chills,” says Jaylen Lloyd, recalling the 2022 Nike Outdoor Nationals Championship Boys Long Jump in Eugene last June, where he memorably won the title on his final attempt and came within an inch of the long-standing meet record. Lloyd’s 25-5.5 was a PR by nearly a foot and an incredible way to finish his junior year at Omaha Central HS, where he had won three state titles a month earlier.
Now a senior at Omaha Westside, where he transferred before the school year, Lloyd is primed for what could be historic indoor and outdoor seasons in 2023. Last month, he signed a letter of intent to attend and compete at University of Nebraska both in football – where he is an outstanding wide receiver – and in track and field. His parents are both UNL alums – father Andante, who was his coach at Central, and his mother, Dahlia (Ingram) Lloyd, was an All-American jumper there who captured seven Big 12 titles from 1997-2000.
Lloyd hopes to compete and jump for the first time at The Armory in March at the Nike Indoor Nationals. No doubt he’ll be fueled by his great NON memories from last summer.
“It was crazy to be able to compete at Hayward Field,” he says. “I had watched so many of my favorite track athletes there and here I was competing at the same place. The whole environment had a space-age feel. I loved it. It was so loud!”
Lloyd was just hoping to PR and place in the top five, but he landed in 2nd-place after his first jump and stayed there, coming to realize the competition was wide-open.
“Watching Aaron (Davis) go out and pop a 25-footer on his fifth jump, I knew I had to PR by at least a foot if I wanted to win,” he remembers. “I stepped on the runway for my last jump, said a little prayer, and started the clap. As the clap of the crowd got louder, I took another second for a little self-talk, telling myself to just relax. I took a deep breath in and sprinted down the runway.”
When Lloyd landed, he knew it was a huge jump, both by the way it felt and the roar of the crowd. Then he saw the 25-5.5 on the scoreboard. “It was one of the greatest moments of my life,” he says. “So many times I was close to winning a championship, so many times I was close to getting a ring. I couldn’t believe it had finally happened.”
Lloyd’s joy came not just from what the performance meant to him personally, but also in representing his home state. “It was an honor to be one of the few people from Nebraska to hold a national high school championship title in track and field. When you look at the field, most of the jumpers were mostly from the south. So to be at a national meet, from Nebraska, and win is amazing.”
Lloyd nearly made it a double, taking 2nd in the triple jump by less than an inch, but with a new PR 50-6 – topping the 50-3.5 from his state meet.
As part of a family where jumping, sprinting and track & field is in the blood, Lloyd has literally spent (most of) his young lifetime preparing for moments like this. It’s clear he embraces the legacy. “Having a father who coaches and a mother who competed in the same events that I compete in, gives me unique advantage,” he says. “Even at a young age they supported my competitive spirt by teaching me things. For example, I competed in my first track meet at the age of three and, shortly after, my mom taught me how to triple jump. My dad and I bounce ideas off each other as we work each season to improve my technique.”
Family life on and off the track blends together, he adds. “Because I’ve been coached by my parents all my life, it’s hard to decipher between coach/athlete and parent/child relationships. Our whole life isn’t consumed with sports, but a good majority of it is.”
Lloyd has thus far successfully threaded the needle between football and track & field, having transitioned rather seamlessly between one and the other during high school. While doing so at the NCAA level will undoubtedly be tougher, he looks forward to the challenge.
“I feel like balancing between two sports is pretty easy,” he says. “I’ve competed in multiple sports for a long time. I know that rest is important between each sport, so I make sure to take a week off before jumping from one sport to another. I’ve been lucky enough to have good communication between my football and track coaches.”
Before he heads to UNL, though, Lloyd has more business to attend to on the high school tracks and runways – not just in the horizontal jumps, but also in the 100 and 200. He won all but the half-lap race in the 2022 NSAA Nebraska Class A championships and hopes to make it a quadruple in 2023.
“My goal is to break the national records for both long and triple jump,” he says. “The legacy I would like to leave is that not only was I an elite jumper from the state of Nebraska, but I was a phenomenal sprinter as well.”
This or That
AF1 or Air Max? Air Max
Chipotle or Sweet Greens? Chipotle
Pool or Beach? Beach
Friday Night: In and Chill ... or Party Time!! In and Chill
Date: Dinner & Movie or The Great Outdoors? Dinner & Movie
Sports Car or Pick-Up Truck? Sports Car
NBA or NFL (as a fan)? NBA
Gold Medal or World Record? World Record
And a few more open-ended "Favorites" questions:
Favorite Song? Forever by Rod Wave
Favorite Book? Kindred by Octavia Butler
Favorite Movie? The Avengers Civil War
Favorite Dinner? Smothered pork chops
Favorite Animal? Jaguar
Favorite Place? San Francisco