Alana Lewis-Curtis | Provided

When 9-year-old Alana Lewis-Curtis started watching track and field on television, she was especially intrigued with the long jump event.

“I always watched people long jump and I was like ‘Oh, that looks fun,’” she told Wednesday Journal. “I tried it and started really liking it.”

Lewis-Curtis, an Oak Park resident who attends Holmes Elementary School, has been a long jumper for two years, and she won her first major championship Aug. 4 at the American Amateur Union Junior Olympic Games held at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. 

Her career-best distance of 14 feet, 2.25 inches on her first attempt in the final round was enough to clinch the long jump title in the girls 10-year-old division.

Lewis-Curtis, whose favorite athlete is Jamaican sprinter Sherry-Ann Fraser-Pryce, also gained All-American status by finishing in the top eight.

“It feels really good,” said Lewis-Curtis of being a champion. “I didn’t expect it. I was just happy to be an All-American. Then, I said that I can push myself to go higher.”

Alana Lewis-Curtis long jump | Provided by LaNequa Lewis

Lewis-Curtis, who also qualified for the AAU Junior Olympics in the 100- and 200-meter dashes (but did not make the finals in each), knew that she was facing high-quality competition in front of a large crowd. But she was able to stay focused and do her best, and she credits a higher power for her poise.

“Before my jumps, I made sure that I prayed,” Lewis-Curtis said. “I breathed, closed my eyes, and jumped. I knew what I needed to do.”

Even so, she admitted to being surprised when she saw her eventual winning distance posted.

“I didn’t know I’d jumped 14 feet, but my mom told me to look at the board, and when I did, I almost started crying,” Lewis-Curtis said in an interview with MileSplit USA.

“Going in, we knew that she was jumping in the mid-13s,” said LaNequa Lewis, Alana’s mother and one of her coaches. “We told her that she had the potential to be an All-American. She entered the finals in fourth place and got her career-best distance on her first jump. Alana took the lead then, and it held up.”

Lewis believes Alana gets helped by her younger sister, 7-old-Alaya, who’s also a runner.

“They push each other really hard and motivate each other,” Lewis said. “They practice all the time.”

The fact that Lewis-Curtis has had success shouldn’t come as a surprise. Her family has an athletic background. She has a cousin who is head coach of a flag football women’s team in Chicago.

Lewis-Curtis, who finished 19th last year in the 9-year-old division, said she’ll be back at the AAU Junior Olympics next year as she moves up an age group. 

“I just love being there and living the moment,” she said.

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