Hertford County track star signs with CCU

Published 9:08 am Thursday, July 6, 2017

AHOSKIE – Joya Blackwell loves to ‘break into her happy dance’.

The movement resembles a spontaneous flailing of arms coupled with rhythmic gyrations, but the recent CS Brown High School STEM graduate, and track-and-field champion may just be dancing her way to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan in 2020.

“I’ll do it (the dance) three times if it’s a good day,” she says, “or sometimes I’ll just do it randomly. I have to feel it. I don’t do it on the track unless I’m really pumped up, and then – maybe.”

In early spring, Blackwell signed a letter-of-intent to compete for Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach, SC, where she specializes in the high jump, triple jump, long jump and hurdles.

At Coastal, Blackwell hopes to work collegiately at the high jump – where she finished second in the state in

Joya Blackwell (seated, left) signs her national letter-of-intent to attend Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach, SC in the HCHS Media Center. Blackwell, a two-time track and field state champion, is joined by her father Jock (seated, right) along with CS Brown STEM Principal Bobbie Jones (standing, left) and HCHS track coach Ben Anthony. | Staff Photo by Gene Motley

2016 but won the state title this past season – as well as multi. Multi is akin to the Olympic heptathlon: the seven-event sequence for women consisting of the 100 meter hurdles, the High jump, shot put, 200 meter run, discus throw, long jump, javelin throw, and 800 meter run.

“I’ve done heptathlon before with USA Track & Field,” she admits. “Because of the javelin, to get better I’ll have to work on my upper body strength.”

With stellar credentials on the cinders – as track is known – at Hertford County High, Blackwell was pursued by some of the top track programs in the region (East Carolina, NC State, West Virginia, and Winston-Salem State). She considered playing college volleyball at one time, but prefers now to stick to one sport.

“They’re getting more than a very good athlete,” says Bears girl’s track coach Ben Anthony. “They’re also getting a great person, a leader, and someone who has been phenomenal for me. She does the things that make her better and wants to learn more about her craft.

Blackwell also credits Prince Edwards with assisting in her jump development.

The daughter of Jock and April Blackwell, a couple who actually met while competing in track at Morgan State University in Baltimore in the eighties, she grew up taking naturally to the sport.

“I coached her mother,” said Anthony. “She has the insight for working out things that can take Joya to the next level.”

“Once they (mother and daughter) get going, I kind of step aside,” says Jock. “At home we try to keep the issues separate at home; you don’t hear too much about it.”

The elder Blackwell’s say they never pressured her to follow the track lineage, but his fatherly pride clearly shows in seeing the legacy of track in the family continued.

“You hope your kids find something they gravitate to, and to see her following in our footsteps is something we’re definitely proud of,” he noted.

After two complete summers of competition, including participating in the Down Under Sports Tournament in Australia in 2016, Blackwell will work this summer and try to prepare for college. She hopes to major in Information Systems at CCU, and from there launch a career in computer engineering.

“I want to design components and software,” she says.

The coach who recruited Blackwell, Damien Brigham, has left Coastal but Joya says that won’t affect her decision.

“I’m going there to get my education,” she says with the same determination she shows in the pit preparing for a jump.