CLEVELAND — Cleveland native and Kent State grad Reggie Jagers III will be representing Northeast Ohio in the Tokyo Olympic Games later this month as he competes for Team USA's Track and Field in the discus event.
The 6'2", 260 pound discus thrower got his start in the sport as a junior at Solon High School. By his senior year he had placed fifth overall at the OHSAA State Championship in the discus and was the 2012 national runner up in the discus at the Junior Olympics.
On June 25, Jagers, who was taking part in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for the Track and Field team, earned second place and qualified for the Tokyo games—but getting to that point wasn't exactly smooth sailing.
In 2019, midway through the season, Jagers' father, Reginald Jagers II, died. That same season Jagers was dealing with a lingering hip injury and a torn pectoral muscle. On top of it all, at the national championships in Des Moines, Iowa, Jagers had the worst national championship performance of his career which put him in a tough spot headed into the trials.
"I pretty much had to, I guess, talk to my dad and pray, and kind of rehaul myself mentally so I could bounce back to be in a position to win the trials or place top three to make the team," Jagers said.
The adversity didn't end there, however.
After a problem with his shoes during the trials, Jagers was forced to wear teammate Joe Kovac's shoes, which didn't exactly fit.
"His foot alone is two of my feet next to each other. So the hard part was swimming in his shoes and putting two socks on so I could just have a chance at doing well,' Jagers laughed.
Wearing extra socks and tying the laces as tight as he could, Jagers, put a new spin on the phrase "walk a mile in someone else's shoes" and rather threw 62.61 meters in someone else's shoes—a final throw that launched him into his qualifying spot.
"I pretty much said, 'You got to get over it. You got to go out there. You've got to make the team. This is your last throw, you're in fifth place.' And I look up to my mom, said a prayer and I figure, let me give everything I have," Jagers said. "I don't care if my technique's bad, I don't care if I'm not feeling good. I don't care if you got new shoes on. It doesn't matter. You got to go out there, give it your best effort. And that's what happened."
Fighting through the adversity, Jagers is now preparing to take the world's stage as an Olympian this month, and for him it's not just about making his own dreams come true—he's dedicating this moment to his mother and the city he calls home and is looking forward to providing representation in the sport he's fallen in love with.
"Obviously it would mean the world. I feel like it would confirm all the hard work that my mom has put me on, the sacrifice that she has done for her whole life. It would be a badge of honor for Ohio, for Cleveland as well. Being a Midwest kid who grew up in not the best circumstances, but always found a way to make it happen," Jagers said. "I also feel like as an African-American male, it would be huge because now we have representation in the sport to where we haven't always had that type of consistent representation. So, if I get a medal at the Olympics, I'll be the first African-American discus to get a medal. I feel like that matters as well."
Athletics begin in Tokyo on Friday, July 30. The Olympic games run from July 23 to Aug. 8.
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