Jonathan Avery crossed the finish line Saturday and immediately, adrenaline still pumping, picked up the phone to make an important call.
It was the first time the Cary Academy junior ran a meet without his father present.
“He’s at the hospital. He’s having some issues with his brain,” Avery said after the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A championship meet at Ravenscroft.
“We were in a car wreck a couple months ago and there are still some lasting effects that they’re just picking up on. … He’s been a coach, dad, friend. He’s been a lot of stuff for me, so it was tough to run without him, but it was good to hear his voice after the race.”
Going into his races, the sprinter knew he had to focus. His mother, grandmother and other family members were at the meet to support him, but the void of his father’s presence was clear.
“My dad’s always been at my meets supporting me,” Avery said. “He’s always at the finish line. He always takes pictures and things like that, and he couldn’t make it to the meet today, so I was running hard for him. I let him know I’d still do great and bring home some titles for him. That was the goal.”
Avery took home two state titles, winning the 100 meters in 11.08 seconds, and the 200 in 22.40. He called his father as soon as he finished both races.
Cary Academy coach Conrad Hall said Avery brings passion and energy to training and practice, which not only impacts his Chargers teammates, but prepares him for the big races.
“He’s disciplined with his preparation, doing all the things necessary prior to the competition to be ready to go, and then he competes with a lot of desire,” Hall said. “He has the mental and physical talent to be a great runner. … This past weekend at the state championship, he was dealing with a lot personally, with the health of his father, who has been a great supporter of Jonathan, and I was very impressed with the way Jonathan was able to take care of his preparations for the meet and be ready and focused when the time came.”
Recalling his father’s response to the news of the state titles, Avery smiled.
“He said, ‘Oh, really? … Congratulations, son. I knew you could do it,’ ” Avery said. “He said he was proud of me, asked me my times, asked me how I felt. Just like he was here.”