The Ball Ground resident was home-schooled, which made options of finding a track program limited, her father, Jeff Gray, said.
Then, during March of 2013, Jordan Gray stumbled upon The Heat Track Club in east Cobb. Coach Blaine Williams, the father of Kendell Williams, a decorated track athlete who won a pair of NCAA women’s championships this past season in the indoor pentathlon and outdoor heptathlon, offered Gray the opportunity to try out for the team, despite her lack of competitive experience.
Gray was required to race against mid-distance runners, many of whom had already earned college scholarships. After she beat the majority of them, Williams made room for Gray, her career skyrocketed as a result and the medals started coming in bunches.
Not only are her college plans set in stone, with a scholarship to Kennesaw State in hand, Gray’s currently ranked ninth in the state in the heptathlon, according to by MileSplit Georgia. She recently had success in an AAU national qualifier in Hampton, winning the heptathlon, javelin, shot put and 100-meter hurdles.
Now, Gray’s gearing up for her second appearance in the AAU Junior Olympics, which begin Saturday at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
“(Gray) had zero track experience, but she was an athlete,” Blaine Williams said. “As a club, you never turn anybody away. If they have the desire, we want to take them in. I remember her first practice, the entire family came out and I was like, ‘What’s going on here?’
“She has great attention to detail. She wants to understand everything you explain and tell her, and she goes out and executes. She has that amazing attention to detail and willingness to try. There is a trust factor also. She trusts it automatically. That also makes her coachable.”
Gray’s athletic ability stemmed from having grown up playing basketball, tennis and softball for Crown Athletics, a Woodstock-based organization that caters to home-schooled students.
Just months after her first tryout in 2013, Gray made her AAU Junior Olympics and finished ninth in the heptathlon. That May, she won a pair of discus titles and took second in the 200 dash at an AAU qualifier.
Gray’s rapid success also attracted the attention of college coaches.
“Jordan is an untapped talent from right here in our backyard, and she’s just begun the sport,” Kennesaw State coach Andy Eggerth said in a university release when Gray signed with the Owls in February. “People are going to be asking, ‘Where did this girl come from?’ Jordan is tall, strong, has long levers and has some spring.”
Earlier this year, Gray won the long jump at the University of Kentucky High School Invitational with a personal-record leap of 19 feet, ¾ inches and claimed the high jump with another personal mark of 5-3¾. She was third in the high jump in March at the New Balance National Indoor Meet in New York.
“All of this wouldn’t be possible without Blaine Williams and His willingness to let someone try out who was 17 and had never run before,” Jeff Gray said.
Jordan has a younger sister, Jamie, following in her footsteps, and she will accompany her to the Junior Olympics.
Jamie, a rising freshman home-schooler, took second in the heptathlon in her age group at a Junior Olympics qualifier. She also finished second in the high jump and third in the shot put and 100 hurdles.