Track and field has taken Brittney Reese across the United States and around the globe to places like Brazil, the United Kingdom, Qatar, Turkey and China, to name a few.
Regardless of where the Gulfport native’s travels have taken her during her golden career, she has never forgotten home.
“All the time,” Reese said Monday evening when asked if she ever thinks about how far she’s come since her days growing up on the Coast. “I’m real blessed to be in the position I’m in. It’s the dream of a lot of people to be a professional athlete, and then it’s a lot of people’s dream to get a medal.
“I’m lucky to be from where I am and that’s my whole reason for giving back to the kids, to let them know good things do come out of Gulfport.”
With that in mind, the Olympic long jumper is back on the Coast this week to host her second Youth Speed and Agility Clinic at her alma mater, Gulfport High School, at 11 a.m. Saturday.
“I want to make sure I’m always doing something for my hometown,” she said.
The clinic is geared toward kids 8 and up and will focus on different drills and techniques to help children in all sports.
“I just want them to go out, have fun and learn the drills,” said Reese, who went on to star at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and Ole Miss. “I hope they learn the right techniques in order to be successful.”
When Reese clinched her latest gold medal in August at the IAAF World Championships in London, she did so with a heavy heart. Just over a month earlier, Reese lost her grandfather and mentor, King David Dunomes, at the age of 86. His death weighed on Reese for a number of reasons.
“He was like a dad to me and is the reason I’m in track and field right now. He’s the reason I love sports. He was a big sports fan. I wanted to be just like him growing up,” Reese said. “Every time I had a competition I had to call him and let him know what channel he could watch me on TV. I knew he loved watching me so I wanted to dedicate that performance to him.”
Tears filled Reese’s eyes after she clinched the world championship with a jump of 7.02 meters. As she made her victory lap, Reese flipped over her bib to reveal a message to Dunomes: “Believe in yourself; RIP Paw Paw.” It was the second time in as many days that Reese cried over her grandfather’s passing.
She said the night before is when, for the first time, she felt at peace with his death.
“His death was so sudden and unexpected. It was an emotional time for me because that was the first time my grandfather wasn’t sitting there watching me compete; I didn’t get to call him before the competition; I missed out on those types of things that I considered rituals,” she said. “To that day I was still struggling with his death. It took me longer than expected to actually accept his death. I was still having an emotional time getting over it.
“After that competition I finally had my breakthrough where I accepted it for what it is.”
End in sight?
Reese has already won seven world championships and Olympic gold. So what’s next for the 31-year-old? What’s left?
She wants to own the world record and believes she can eclipse the mark of 7.52 meters, which was set in 1988.
“I’m more than capable of doing it, it just has to be the right time and right atmosphere. I feel like it will come,” she said. “I believe I was on track to do it this year, but my grandfather’s death set me back. Those kinds of things happen.
“Now that I have the world championships and all that out of the way, now I can focus on the small things to make myself perform at a high performance.”
Reese believes she can improve on her personal best of 7.31 if she fine tunes her mechanics a touch.
“I tend to reach a lot and as soon as I learn to get my foot up under me, those types of things will help propel me to where I need to be,” she said.
Reese said within the last year she had several fouls that equated to 7.6-7.7, which would have shattered the record books.
“Those were just baby fouls, so that proves to me that I’m more than capable of jumping,” she said. “It just has to be the right time.”
Reese believes she has one last Olympic campaign in her and will make the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo her last.
“This is it — 2020 is it,” she said. “Win or lose, 2020 is it.
“I feel like that will be a perfect time.”
Youth Speed & Agility Clinic
What: Track camp with Brittney Reese
When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Gulfport High School