Versatile Heptathlete Jania Hodges Signs With Oklahoma

Sandy Creek High School's (GA) Jania Hodges is headed to the University of Oklahoma next fall.

Hodges signed to the Big 12 Conference program exclusively on MileSplit's Instagram on Saturday. The heptathlete chose the Sooners over Oregon, Mississippi State, Arizona State and Michigan State.

"I'm pretty excited, overall, I feel like it's a great coaching staff, they're really energetic and I found they get behind their athletes on and off the track," Hodges, MileSplit's No. 18 class of 2021 recruit, said.

The senior is the US No. 4 returner in the heptathlon, with her last multi performance (4,839 points) coming from the 2019 USATF National Junior Olympic Championships. Hodges said that effort prepared her for how performances need to be at the next level. 

"I was 16 competing against 17, 18 and 19-year olds," she said. "I competed against an Oregon commit, an LSU commit and went out there and performed. At the end of the day for me, that's what I have to take to the collegiate level. I'm not afraid of names ... It's about stepping on to the track every time, believing that you've to get better, going out and executing."

Outside of the heptathlon, Hodges is a strong hurdler, long and high jumper. Most recently, she achieved new personal bests of 19-1 in long jump for US No. 18 and 14.82 in the 100-meter hurdles.

The senior also holds PRs of 5-7.75 in the high jump and 42.24 in the 300mH, that earned her runner-up at the GHSA Class 4A state meet.

It's this versatility that will determine Hodges career with the Sooners. With her current score of 4,839 points, she would've placed seventh at the 2019 Big 12 Outdoor Championships.

"Going in, I will be the hep kid, but overall, they just want what's best for me and what's best for the program," the senior said. "Coach Langford, the head coach, and Coach Langley believe I have potential to outgrow the hep and will be able to compete in the Big 12 and NCAA Championships in individual [events]."

Hodges' relationship with multi-event coach Jerel Langford set Oklahoma apart from the rest. The senior said no other coach outside of Langford took the time to invest in her interests anything besides track.

"At the end of the day, [the coaches] care about you more as a person than they do as an athlete," Hodges said. "You're able to tell that because of Coach [Langford], he tracked my softball team. We went to the Sweet 16 and every game whether we won or lost, he checked in, he told me what the score was, asked how the game went and stuff like that."

As the senior decided which program was going to be her home for the next four years, she remembered some recruiting advice from her summer track coach, Coach Harvey. 

"He told me, 'You're a thoroughbred, don't go to a school where you'll be treated like a mule. You deserve to be treated like a thoroughbred,'" she said.

"That made me think when I made my decision ... The longer you talk to somebody the more comfortable they get, the more comfortable they get, you get to see their true colors and what they expect from you," she added. "That's how I weeded out some schools, because Coach Langford and Coach Langley are the goof balls I met on day one, and they're the same goof balls I called when I verbally committed."

When choosing Oklahoma, Hodges acknowledged the importance of having the right support system. 

"Consistency is for me is key ... so, I just need somebody who's going to be there, lift me up, talk with me and help me get myself together," she said. "So, I just had to pick a program that was going to be okay with me having bad days and weren't going to let my bad days define me or taint my next year."

Hodges is looking forward to the chance to compete in her senior season. The future Sooner plans on using her final year to prepare for her collegiate debut.

With the end of her high school career approaching, the senior realizes she's come a long way.

"I'm pretty proud of myself, there have been a couple days I wanted to quit, where from coaches or injuries," Hodges said. "And by not quitting and seeing where you are at the end of the tunnel I just like, okay it was worth it, you got everything you wanted, you closed that chapter. Now, get ready for the next one."