Photo Credit: Atlanta Track Club
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Last May, after cleaning up with two impressive wins in the 100m and 200m at the Wingfoot Night of Champions, Adaejah Hodge was interviewed by Olympic gold medalist Gail Devers, who asked, 'Who are two people in your life who have been great influences to you?'
Without hesitation, the Douglasville Alexander High School freshman, whose parents are natives of the British Virgin Islands, answered, 'My mom and FloJo.'
You couldn't have picked two better role models.
Now, fast track to April.
On Friday, the 16-year-old debuted at No. 1 on the MileSplit50 outdoor rankings. She's currently the fourth-fastest U18 athlete in the world at 100m, the third-fastest at 200m and No. 21 in the long jump.
The stats tell a larger story. This past week in Jamaica, the high school sophomore from the British Virgin Islands secured career performances at the CARIFTA Games inside the National Stadium in Kingston, pocketing three individual wins in the 100m, 200m and long jump.
That moment was so big in some circles, in fact, that it actually prompted the Jamaica Observer to print the headline, 'A STAR IS BORN,' referencing Hodge's epic three-medal haul.
The 100m and long jump bookends were especially important, if only because they land Hodge at U.S. No. 1 marks and put her in elite company. The times were 11.29 (0.5), 23.42 (-3.0) and 20 feet, 4 inches. Her 100m time is tied for No. 27 all-time ... with Allyson Felix.
Previously, she had also run a wind-legal 200m best of 23.25 seconds at the Christian Coleman Invitational.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to determine that Hodge has elevated her stock significantly in a year's time. Just a year ago, she ran PRs of 11.67, 23.66 and 53.81. She also logged a personal best of 19-5.75 in the long jump.
Looking at those numbers wholly, they present marked improvements of 0.38 seconds in the 100m, 0.41 seconds in the 200m and nearly a foot in the long jump. Improving, even within the smallest margins, becomes ever so difficult when you're racing at an elite level.
But when you have an athlete like Hodge, the ceiling just hits higher.
No other female in the country can currently do what Hodge does plus what she can offer in the field. That's one big reason why she started at No. 1.
While naming the top athlete in the country is always a tough ordeal, what Hodge is doing leaves little doubt at this point in the season.
And that's one big factor in why Hodge might be in line for a major breakthrough season in 2022. She's one of five to maybe 10 females who realistically could challenge for that No. 1 spot throughout the season.
But while CARIFTA was a huge breakthrough moment for the 16-year-old, it was only the beginning.
With plenty of season left, and many more races to target, this sophomore from Georgia has a lot left to give.
And that's one reason why we can't wait to see what she accomplishes.