After a stellar showing at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Howard University All-American Jessica Wright made her debut at the USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships, advancing to the semi-final round of the 400-meter hurdles. 

“It was definitely an amazing opportunity,” said Wright. “The experience of competing against the pros, especially at the national level, made me a better athlete, not just physically but more so mentally, competing on such a high level. Competing against the world’s best, it feels like I could be on that same level in the years to come.”

Olympic gold medalist Sydney McLaughlin was in Wright’s semi-final heat. While Wright thought about it the night before, when they got on the line, she saw it as any other race. She stayed and watched the final, which McLaughlin won with a new world record, and said to herself that is where she will be next year and she’s ready to put in the work.

It was interesting and inspiring to see athletes from other HBCUs competing. “Watching us competing with these pro level athletes, it was amazing,” said Wright, who was accompanied to the championships by Howard head coach David Oliver and assistant coach Jessica Cousins. 

“I feel I competed well,” said Wright. “I feel that on this high level there is no room for error. Fixing the technical side and fine tuning the small things will definitely help me improve my race for next year. … I made it to the semi-finals. It felt like a rookie experience, so I’m happy.

“The atmosphere was different than the NCAAs or any other meet that I’ve been to,” she added. “It wasn’t as intense. It was welcoming to the athletes who had made it to that level.” 

Right now, Wright is taking a break from intense training. Heading into next year, she will be the clear leader on the women’s track and field squad. Her teammates from the 4×400 have all graduated and moved on. She said she will follow Oliver’s lead and set a high standard for all the student-athletes. 

“Pushing my teammates to excel,” said Wright, a health science major. “More so I lead by example, but this year I hope to talk and tell my teammates how it feels to make it to nationals. It’s the experience you want to have before you end your collegiate season.”

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