This is the latest in an occasional series on how some of the area’s top high school athletes are working to develop their skills over the summer.
Felecia Majors bristles whenever someone says she looks like Gabby Douglas, the American gymnast who won the women’s all-around Thursday at the London Games. Majors’s brown skin, slender body and toothy smile make her a dead ringer for the gold medalist.
“Mmm, I don’t see it,” the rising senior at South County says with a laugh and a short shake of her head.
If she thinks people should lay off the comparisons, Majors, the most versatile track and field athlete in the area last year, isn’t exactly doing herself any favors by training on gymnastics rings. She’s been using them for the last two months, hanging with arms fully extended while lifting her legs up toward her head. It’s how she improves her abdominal strength, she says, which will be critical to producing bigger jumps in the pole vault next season.
It’s an intense workout, but it comes at a time when the reigning All-Met indoor track Athlete of the Year is intentionally slowing things down and taking time to focus on her form. The last 10 months of her life have been both a blur and a grind as she bounced from cross-country last fall straight into the winter and spring track seasons, during which she routinely competed in up to seven events per meet and won a combined five state titles. During that time, Majors’s one goal was to simply be faster than everyone else. Now, it’s to be better prepared.
“The year is so long. You’re tired,” Majors said. “Practice is very low key right now. You take it down a notch and we work on pretty much technique now.”
It was mostly athleticism, not technique, that sent Majors a personal-best 12 feet 7 inches over the pole vault bar last spring. Combining the two, she says, will catapult her 13 feet or more. That is a rarified height that only the most elite high school jumpers in the country ever reach.
Majors recently experienced what just a few technical improvements can do. She and her sister EnNijah, a rising junior at South County, competed in the national Junior Olympics championships for the very first time last week in Baltimore and Felecia helped lead Glenarden Track Club to titles in the 4x100- and 4x400-meter relays.
Her coach gave her a piece of running advice that she executed almost flawlessly. Instead of simply gliding around the track, Majors applied force to the ground with every step, propelling herself forward and delivering gold to Glenarden with a 53-second anchor lap. That is two seconds faster than what she ran to win the Virginia AAA 400 meters title in June.
“She was the baby of the group,” said Kiah Seymour, a Penn State freshman who was Majors’s roommate during the seven-day Junior Olympics, “but we didn’t give her a hard time because she was just as fast as us, if not faster.”
Now, Majors is bringing the same attention to detail to her pole vault training. She cycles carefully through ground drills on mats such as handstands as well as a few in the air that are teaching her body to twist at the proper angle over the bar. Last school year, Majors often went over on her side instead of on her belly.
“I just want to improve my top end and have the technique and go over the correct way,” Majors said. “I really want to be a pretty jumper.”