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High-flying Waller looks to up his game in hoops and track

South Boston News
Waller / April 06, 2020
Halifax County High School’s Jaden Waller had a junior season in sports a lot of athletes would dream of.

Waller captured a VHSL Class 4 Indoor Track Championship winning in the high jump, clearing the bar at 6’4”. The multi-sport student-athlete also had the opportunity to bring home a state basketball title – a loss in the state quarterfinals round eliminating that possibility.

“I think we could have accomplished more than just a regional championship,” Waller said. “But we were a young team and a little immature. I took basketball a lot more serious and I became a little more dedicated,” – noting his own preparation for this past season.

The son of Sharon Penick and Jamie Waller, Waller, who has “lived here in Halifax my whole life,” planned to compete with the Comets outdoor track team in the spring. The COVID-19 pandemic altering those plans as spring sports was cancelled along the spectrum from professional to recreational players.

The 2021 state hopeful says that his desire to excel at track came fairly early in life.

“I played basketball and ran track in my eighth grade year,” Waller said. “After my eighth grade year I started to like track a lot more since I was pretty good at it.

“I have been on both the track team and basketball team throughout high school, and I did two years of jayvee basketball. I enjoy track a lot more than basketball but I still have a love for the game of basketball.”

The young man who likes to play videogames and spend times with friends in his down time said he worked to model himself after his father who also was an athlete at HCHS.

His father, Jamie, upon graduation from HCHS attended Virginia Union University in Richmond where he was a star basketball player for the Panthers. He was drafted by the New Jersey Nets in the third round of the 1987 NBA Draft and was named the Continental Basketball Association’s rookie of the year in 1988.

His love for track and field would soon have him admiring his aunt, Tisha Waller.

Tisha is a 1988 graduate of HCHS and a two-time USA Olympian high jumper. Waller competed in the 1996 and 2004 Summer Olympics, set a then-record of 6’ 7.25” at the 1998 USA Indoor Championships on Feb. 28, 1998 and has enjoyed a solid career in track and field, along with a host of other accomplishments.

“When I was a kid I wanted to be like my father but as I grew older I started to want to be more like my aunt,” Waller said. “Yes, Tisha is my auntie and we have a great relationship. The summer of my sophomore year she let me stay with her in her home in Atlanta so that I could train for high jump with one of her college coaches.”

During that time one of Waller’s focus points was improving his approach to the bar. He said that he is proud of winning a state championship, but not so much of the height used to secure the win –a nod to his dedicated work ethic and his appreciation of his coaches.

“I wasn’t very satisfied with the win; I knew I could do a lot better than that,” he said. “I’m not really the cocky type and I’m very humbled by the accolade.”

Waller says that not having a spring sports season has presented challenges including working out but says he been staying in shape.

“I’m doing a lot of walking and keeping my body in shape, such as running doing leg workouts and just walking back and forth on trails,” Waller said. “Coronavirus canceling our track season is a huge bummer but I can still hit the track any day I want and I will continue to perfect my craft and drive to be the best track athlete to come through Halifax.”

Waller said he’s excited about his upcoming senior year as he has great relationships with the teachers, the administration and students. He says he’s appreciative of that.

“I have had a blast at HCHS,” Waller said. “The teachers and I have great relationships thus far and I have nothing but respect for the staff, and the coaches are very respectful and patient.”

Waller said one of his goals in his senior track season is to improve on his height in the high jump. He also says that upon graduation he’d really just like to be remembered as a decent person who gave it his all.

“Going into my senior year I’d like to accomplish the height of 6’-8” before I graduate and I’d like to be remember in this community as a respectable, hardworking, caring, student athlete that never gave up on his dreams of success.”

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