Not only was this teen track star racing toward the finish line, she was running toward her mom, who decided to surprise her on the track after a six-month deployment.
Right after 13-year-old Jada McGee of Edward Harris Junior Middle School in Sacramento, California, crossed the finish line, winning the relay race for her team, she dashed straight into her mom’s arms for the first time in half a year.
“I instantly started crying because I was excited to see her and I couldn't believe it had happened,” Jada told T&T Creative Media.
Capt. Erika Woods, who is stationed in Anchorage, Alaska, for a three-year assignment, said she had not been able to make it to any of her daughter’s races this year.
“It’s been pretty tough not being able to see her run during the regular season, I normally was able to make most of her basketball games she has, ballet recitals, gymnastics,” Woods said. “Being apart from my children and not being able to be there for their activities is really hard.”
When Woods found out Jada would be the anchor for her 4x100 team at the May championship track meet, she decided she wouldn’t miss it for the world.
She reached out to the school counselor and set up the whole surprise.
“Coming down the home straight I was excited because I was in first place and I saw my mom close to the finish line so it made me start running faster,” Jada said. “She was putting her hands up and clapping and I was like, 'Oh shoot, that's my mom.'”
Woods said the moment might have been even more overwhelming for her.
“When I finally hugged Jada and she crossed the finish line, just a release of a lot of different emotions, happy that I was able to be there for that moment for her, excited for her to finish in first place, even tears of sadness that I had missed so much of her season or all of her season,” she recalled. “All of those emotions wrapped in one.”
During Woods’ time at home, she and Jada have been enjoying girls’ time together as well as training for her upcoming track season.