* Ajee' Wilson after winning the 800m at the USA Outdoor Championships in 2019
Photo Credit: USA Today Sports
Less than a decade after the 26-year-old starred for the prep program, Neptune's School Board approved a motion to name the school's track after Wilson, who is a multiple-time World Championship medalist, a 2016 Olympian and the American record-holder at 800 meters.
It sort of took Wilson by surprise.
"When I found out, I was super-stunned at first," Wilson told the Asbury Park Press. "It's a huge honor. I literally grew up on that track. I lived maybe a mile or so away. My love for the sport was born there. It's crazy to think about."
Normally, these distinctions are met after a World Championship and Olympic career is finished, sometime after the results have been earned the memories have faded a bit.
Wilson, though, is in her prime.
Arguably the top 800 meter runner for the United States, she's coming off a performance of 1:58.93 in February at the Texas Qualifier in Austin, Texas. Nearly four years ago, she ran a career-best time of 1:55.61 in Monaco and has gone 1:57.78 as recently as 2019.
Perhaps Neptune asked itself, why wait?
Superintendent Tami Crader explained the decision as such:
"We are proud of Neptune alumnus and Olympian Ajee' Wilson and are happy to highlight her accomplishments. As a role model for our athletes, she sends a powerful message of the importance of goal-setting, hard work, and commitment. She continually gives back to the Neptune community, most recently donating sneakers to our girls track team. We are grateful to Ajee' for both her generosity and her 'you can do it' message."
With the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials nearing in June and the Tokyo Olympics set for July and August, Wilson is among the top candidates ready to qualify, and compete, for the United States.
Looking back, the public high school for which Wilson starred over an unmatched 4-year run across NJSIAA competition featured a long list of memories. In 2012, Wilson won a World Athletics U20 Championship in Barcelona, scoring a high school best of 2:00.91; a month previous, she ran at the 2012 Olympic Trials.
In 2011, she won a World Youth Championship in 2:02.64 in France and as a sophomore was fifth at World Juniors. Over her four years at Neptune, Wilson secured 8-time Group Championships in New Jersey, competed at the adidas Grand Prix and featured in the mile at The Penn Relays.
The Asbury Park Press reported that Neptune will likely have a "dedication ceremony for the track's new name" sometime in the future, when safety protocols are met and conditions are better.
The 26-year-old Wilson lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
"There are so many amazing people who built the track & field program at Neptune, the coaches and the athletes, and it just adds an extra chip on my shoulder," she told the APP. "This is a huge motivation to hopefully bring back an Olympic gold medal to my hometown and just have things come full circle."