Irondale High School junior Juriad Hughes Jr. earned a state championship and set a Class AAA track and field state meet record last Saturday, at St. Michael-Albertville High School, breaking the 41-year-old long jump record set in 1982 by St. Paul Central’s Von Sheppard.
Hughes Jr., who topped Sheppard’s leap of 24’ 9.25” by jumping 24’ 11” in the section final a couple of weeks ago, set the meet record finishing at 24’ 10.75”.
According to Hughes Jr.’s father, Juriad Hughes Sr., the state championship and new record hit closer to home than many fans and onlookers realized.
“We all looked up to Von growing up,” Hughes Sr. said of Sheppard, who sadly passed away at the age of 58, in April. “He was one of the best athletes in the [Rondo] neighborhood.”
Hughes Sr. grew up watching Sheppard star in football, basketball, and track. While the three-sport athlete went on to star in track and basketball at the University of Nebraska from 1983-1988, Hughes Sr., who played basketball at Central from 1987-89 became one of the sport’s most decorated athletes.
Hughes Jr., who also anchored the third-place 4×100 relay team at the state meet and stars for the Knights football team as a wide receiver, is quickly becoming one of the state’s top elite track and field athletes.
Every year, usually during track and field season, people asked Sheppard about the record. “It usually happened when someone would threaten to break it, the media would track me down somehow,” he said years ago.
Sheppard said that records were made to be broken. But he always hoped the record breaker would be close to home. “I’m hoping it’s someone from St. Paul Central,” he once said.
Though it didn’t happen quite the way Sheppard envisioned, it came pretty darn close.
“My son goes to Irondale, but I graduated from St. Paul Central,” Hughes said. “That’s why this [long jump record] means so much more. I just wish my son could have met him [Sheppard]. That would have been special.”