Ernest Majors gave chase the instant he saw a neighbor’s unleashed pit bull take off after his young daughter outside their Lorton townhouse.
With only a slight head start, Felecia Majors churned her tiny legs as fast as they could go. The 5-year-old turned the corner of the brick building and disappeared through a side door in one quick motion. Her father and the dog kept sprinting.
“We took another lap around the house looking for her,” Ernest Majors said, remembering the harrowing race to safety 12 years ago. “Me and the dog [which turned out to be friendly] both kind of stopped at the same time and looked around like ‘What happened?’ ”
For years, moments like this were all Ernest Majors had to gauge his daughter’s uncommon speed. Besides two seasons of youth cheerleading, Felecia Majors had never participated in organized sports before joining the South County track and field team in ninth grade.
These days, the hundreds of medals that sit around the house, most in an unkempt pile in the living room, provide the tangible proof of Majors’ athletic gifts. Over the past four years, the Tennessee-bound senior has blossomed into the area’s most versatile performer, excelling in sprints, jumps and pole vault, in a decorated career that should be remembered among the greatest in local history.
Majors leads the list of talented locals into the prestigious 119th Penn Relays, a three-day international meet that begins Thursday in Philadelphia.
Limited by rule to a single field event, she has entered long jump as the top seed (20 feet) and will also run on South County’s 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams. Last year, she finished second at the meet in pole vault.
“My mom [Blanche] likes to call me a medal freak,” Majors said, explaining her motivation to maintain such an ambitious range of events. “I love medals, so I’ll do anything to get a medal, pretty much. . . . I want to win everything. I really want the gold watch,” for winning at Penn Relays.
Growing up, Majors, a two-time All-Met Winter Track Athlete of the Year, filled that appetite for competition with races to the bus stop and games with her three siblings. Ernest Majors, a retired Marine, kept his children active and doled out calisthenics in place of punishment when they made trouble.
But those closest to Felecia Majors describe a physical and emotional transformation since making her debut on the track. As a freshman, Majors flashed speed right away, but it took time for her to learn racing strategy and early on, she had little usefulness in the field events, too raw to master the technique necessary to compete consistently.
By her sophomore season, Majors began to figure out the steps on her pole vault approach, which she found helped at the long jump pit. She soon added triple jump to her repertoire and then high jump, clearing a district qualifying height in that event without first trying it in practice.
“When she started running track, her personality started coming out and her confidence level shot up,” her father said.
Now Majors does her best to juggle all of those events. She spends two days a week on the track. This season, she’s been running alongside the fastest boys in those workouts, including her brother Ernest, Jr., a sophomore.
Two more sessions are devoted to only field training, rotating between the pole vault area and the jumping pit while mixing in some hurdle training with her sister EnNijah, a junior. South County practices run from 3 to 5 p.m., but she regularly stays until 7:30 to get all her work in.
She’s also bumped up her strength through a weight training class during the school day. At 5-foot-6, 108 pounds, she can squat 240 pounds.
Coach T.D. Holsclaw, who took over at the Lorton school for Majors’s freshman season, calls her “a once in a lifetime athlete,” both because of her skills and her attitude on the track.
“I’ve seen the way she works, and I still say, ‘How can you do it all in one day?’ ” her brother said. “You have to be tired after all that.”
At the Penn Relays like many other invitational meets, Majors is limited in the number of events she can enter. Most states, including Maryland, and the District adhere to the National Federation of State High School Associations rule, which permit athletes to participate in no more than four events, including relays.
But in the Virginia district, region and state meets, she can truly set herself apart from the pack. Per Virginia High School League rules, ahletes can compete in three running events and as many field events as they choose.
Each of the past two years, she won seven individual events at the indoor AAA Patriot District meet (long jump, triple jump, high jump, pole vault, 55, 500, 300), and in February she posted a meet-record 64 points by scoring in the same seven events at the final AAA Northern Region meet.
Majors powered South County to its first state title in any sport when she won the long jump and pole vault and placed second in three events and fourth in another at the state meet. She also anchored the school’s sixth-place 4x400 relay team, becoming the first athlete in state history to score in seven events. Her 49 individual points set another meet record.
The group who scored in six includes Sheena Johnson of Gar-Field and Yvette Lewis of Menchville, both of whom went on to represent the United States in international competition.
At Tennessee, Majors could compete in the all-encompassing pentathlon (indoors) and heptathlon (outdoors) but may limit her focus to long jump and 400 meters, her top events.
Majors’s father said the Volunteer coaches have expressed concerns about her overdoing it in her final high school season, but she has no plans to slow down now. She’s having too much fun testing her personal limits.
“I’m still a little bit all over the place,” Majors said. “I can’t help it. I just like to do everything. I can’t imagine giving up anything.”