City native Deonica Reid dreams of someday becoming the fastest girl in the world.
This summer, the Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy sophomore will be one step closer to that goal. Deonica will make her debut on the international stage when she takes part in the International Sports Specialists Inc.’s Down Under Sports Tournament in Australia July 5-7. The competition will be held at Griffith University’s Gold Coast Campus, a former Olympic training ground. The young athlete was tapped for the competition based upon her performance representing WSPA at the state track and field competition last year. The then-freshman took first place in the women’s 4×1 relay and second in both the 4×2 relay and the 100m. Deonica comes from a long line of female track and field athletes. Her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother were all standout runners.
“My great-grandma was good, and my grandma was really good and my mama, everybody says she was really good, so I kind of want to be better so I can make it to a higher level,” she said. “I’m trying to get stronger. I’ve been lifting (weights) a little bit. I’m trying to get faster. I’m working on the little stuff … like form and technique.”
At 15, Deonica, the oldest of three children, has been competing in track and field almost as long as she can remember, and, after losing her maternal grandmother and one of her biggest fans to a heart attack in November 2012, she says her resolve to succeed in the sport has taken on new meaning. “I think when I got started, I just liked it so I just didn’t want to stop,” she related. “Now, since my grandmother died, it’s her kind of telling me to keep doing it because I want to go to school for it and I want to go to the Olympics, so I do it for her.”
Deonica’s grandmother, Regina Elcock, had planned to accompany her granddaughter to Australia. Now, Deonica’s mother, Yolanda Shepherd-Reid, will be taking her place, making the seven-day trip bittersweet for both women.
“It’s been kind of rough for us. For a minute, I wasn’t going to let her go, but my mom really wanted her to go,” Shepherd-Reid related. “My mom could’ve gone to the Olympics, but she got pregnant with me and that kind of messed her up, so when Deonica got the opportunity to go to Australia, she was like, ‘Let her go.’”
Deonica, who also cheerleads and plays volleyball, said making it to the Down Under Competition is an important milestone in her fledgling career. She is ramping up her already demanding training regimen, which includes two hours of workouts most days, to ensure that she excels in Australia.
“Getting invited, it kind of made me think about it more, like, ‘Okay, this is really happening, so I need to get it together,’” she related. “It’s time to buckle down and quit playing because I don’t want to go all the way to Australia and blow it.”
The track isn’t the only place where the young athlete stands out. She is currently tied with another student for first in her class, with a 3.68 grade point average.
“Mom always told me that you could always get hurt when you do any sport, so you’ve always got to have something to fall back on,” Deonica said. “Even though I like what I do, education is more important than a sport because you never know what’s going to happen.”
Deonica’s coach, Derrick Speas, believes Deonica, whom he describes as “a tremendous athlete,” has what it takes to succeed in any arena she chooses.
“She’s what you call a once in a lifetime athlete as far as doing everything I ask her to do, being a good student-athlete and applying
those things to track and field as well,” said Speas, who has taken eight teams to the state championships in his 11-year career. “Deonica has bought into everything I’ve been preaching. She’s been building her resume for success, and that’s for academic achievement as well as athletic achievement… she’s a strong contender (for the Olympics) if she continues to work the way that she is now.”
In addition to the WSPA track and field and cross country squads, Deonica continues to compete as a member of the AAU team Next Level Track Club, just as she has since she was four years old. Her 13-year old sister is also a Next Level competitor and her four year-old brother is starting with the club this year.
“I think it’s just like a dream. I can see myself in her, I guess. That’s why I push her and my other daughter, because I see the potential in them,” Shepherd-Reid commented. “I’m just so proud of her.”
Deonica’s Next Level teammate, Jakara King-Penn, a standout athlete at Reagan High School, was also selected to compete at the Down Under Competition this year.
For more information about the Down Under Sports Tournament, visit www.downundersports.com.