Sophomore sprinter runs through pain, continuing to live her dream

Sophomore sprinter runs through pain, continuing to live her dream

Sophomore sprinter runs through pain, continuing to live her dream
May 07
10:00 2018

With the sun beaming down and a light breeze making its way across the field, sophomore sprinter Jahyda Dixon crouches down in lane one. With her feet staggered apart, leaning forward with both hands touching the track, she’s awaits the signal. On command, she bursts out her stance and down the track with a demeanor showing this is more than just practice to her.

“Stay aggressive, stay aggressive,” shouted assistant coach David Burnett.

Wearing a UNT shirt and black Nike leggings, Dixon reaches her top speed with less than 100 meters left to run. As her neon spikes continue to drive in and out the track, her facial expression intensifies knowing she’s a few steps away from being done.

“Keep that posture all the way down,” Burnett screams as she crosses the finish line.

Dixon runs in the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints and is on the relay teams for the 4×100 and 4×200 relays in her second year running for North Texas.

Walking gingerly off the track and onto the field, Dixon congregates with teammates as she waits for her next practice run. After a series of laughs and exchanges, she returns to track and the smile quickly fades as she repeats her routine of getting on the blocks and getting ready for her run.

That laser focus Dixon exhibits on the track developed when she was a kid and carried over into her high school career, eventually landing her an athletic scholarship to the University of North Texas. But on May 6, 2016, just a couple months before deciding which college she attended, tragedy struck.

On that Friday evening, as Jahyda made her way home from school, her mother had news to share with her.

Dixon found out that her brother, Ronald Williams, was murdered in West Virginia by a police officer. According to a report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Williams had a domestic dispute his ex-girlfriend, Bethany Gilmer, which led to her calling the police. Ultimately, the incident left him fatally wounded after pulling a gun on officers.

“My first emotion, I was numb to it. I had no emotions at all,” Dixon remembered. “I didn’t know what to do. I just walked out of my house. I didn’t know what to do and stood by my car. I froze. I was in shock. I didn’t cry. I didn’t do none of that.”

As days passed, her emotions began manifesting and the tears started rolling down her face as she came to the realization that her brother was no longer a phone call away.

Growing up, Dixon had always been the one member of the family they turned to for support, despite her being young. With the role reversed, her family comforted her until the point where the anger she felt turned to joy as she reflected the positive memories of him.

With Williams in mind, Dixon regained her confidence and started her career as a member of the North Texas track team as of fall of 2016. She knew leaving her family in El Paso would be tough, but it was a risk she needed to take, to pursue her dreams.

“I couldn’t allow that situation, or any situation for that matter, to bring me back down,” Dixon said. “I know [Williams] wouldn’t want me to stop doing what I love doing because of the situation. The fear of disappointing him and disappointing my family. At the end of the day, I do all this for my family.”

With her family over 600 miles away, Dixon dealt with bouts of depression during her first semester at North Texas. While making her way across campus, head track coach Carl Sheffield noticed how visibly emotional she was and decided to sit down and talk with her outside of the business leadership building one day. As they spoke, tears rushed down her face as she began to explain to him for the first time that her brother had died.

Afterwards, Sheffield decided what Dixon needed most was not found on the track. It was outside of the sport. It was someone who was willing to listen and could help her get through life without him. As a result, once a week he arranged a time for them to meet up so that she could discuss anything bothering her.

The result was a newfound connection, and a connection which powered Dixon through her freshman year.

“She became my daughter,” Sheffield said. “She was trying to be my athlete, I was like you’re not even Jahyda Dixon no more. Just getting her to talk through it and talk her down to where [we could] figure out how to cope first, before we [worry] about being the student-athlete.”

After injuring her hamstring midway through her first year, Sheffield decided that Dixon needed to focus on rehabbing mentally and physically, so she did not run during her freshman season. Along with the support he provided, he arranged counseling sessions for her through the university.

Initially, she was against the idea, but her trust in Sheffield gave her all the assurance she needed moving forward.

“She’s such a big person inside,” Sheffield said of Dixon’s heart. “We kind of walked through [counseling] together, and she kind of dug herself out of the hole spring semester and she was better.”

Now, in her second year on the team, Dixon has emerged into a leadership role within the team. Sheffield describes her as a ‘coaches dream’ because of her willingness to follow directions and hold others accountable.

Although the numbers have not been in her favor this season, Dixon will always cherish the 23 years she had with her brother and continues to grind because of him and her family. The years formed a bond that will never be broken between Ronald and Jahyda.

Sunday, May 6, 2018, marks two years since his death. Regardless of how many years or decades pass, she refuses to let herself forget. This year, she keeps a piece of him every time she prepares to step on the track.

“I have a picture of him in my locker,” dixon said. “There [are] times where I’m like I can’t do this, and that picture is right there to remind me I have to do it. [Even when] my body hurts, my mind is tired, don’t feel like I have anyone here, I know that he’s looking down on me and saying just take it day-by-day.

“He would always say it’s not the end of the world, just take it day-by-day.”

Featured Image: North Texas sophomore sprinter Jahyda Dixon runs on the field during a practice session. Trevon McWilliams

About Author

Jordan James

Jordan James

Sports writer covering Mean Green Sports and more

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1 Comment

  1. Joe Scafone
    Joe Scafone July 15, 08:15

    “Murdered by police” wrong choice of words. How about “killed”?

    Reply to this comment

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