John Tyler grad Jefferson pursuing Olympic dream at trials

Andre Jefferson (left) is pictured here with friend and mentor, Tyler mayor Martin Heines, at the airport before departing for a competition. Jefferson will compete this weekend in the Olympic track and field trials in Eugene, Oregon. (Courtesy Photo)

Ever since he was 8-years-old, Andre Jefferson has dreamed of competing in the Olympics.

The Tylerite is one step closer to that realization.

Jefferson, the 2013 John Tyler High School graduate, will be competing for a spot on the United States Olympic team this weekend in Eugene, Oregon.

"I thank God every day for the opportunity He has given me," said Jefferson, who will be competing in the long jump. "Every day, I first think about God and then I think about my sister."

His sister, Navy seaman Tyler Alexandra Jefferson, was gunned down while jogging near the U.S. Navy Base she was stationed near Pensacola, Florida, on Nov. 12, 2009. His thoughts are always on his sister.

"I trained and work with my sister in my mind and heart," Jefferson said.

Jefferson's father, Tyrus Jefferson, is his coach. His father ascended to No. 10 in the long jump world rankings in 1987 and finished sixth in the 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials.

Now, the younger Jefferson wants to finish in the top three to earn a spot in the 2016 Rio Olympics, which are scheduled for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from Aug. 5 to 21.

Jefferson suffered a knee injury in May, but has been rehabbing and praying that it gets better.

"I hyper-extended (my knee) during a meet in early May," said Jefferson, who won the Class 5A long jump gold medal in 2013 while competing for JT. "It is getting better. I am going to go up to Oregon and let it fly."

His career best distance has been 26 feet, 7 inches. At the 2013 Pan American Games in Medellin, Colombia, he leapt 7.92 meters (approximately 25-9). He took the silver as he finished second to Higor Alves of Brazil (7.95 meters, about 26-1).

Jefferson noted the influence of his father as a coach, along with his mentorsand extended family, Michelle Heines and her husband, Mayor Martin Heines.

The preliminaries are scheduled for 1:45 p.m. (Pacific Time) on Saturday with the top 10 advancing to the finals at 4:45 p.m. Sunday. The top three advance to the Olympics.

Jefferson said he expects a leap of at least 27-0 to be in contention for a medal and a trip to Rio.

"During a meet at Lancaster earlier this year, I went 27-4 but I barely (scratched)," he said.

Former University of Texas standout and current Buffalo Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin won the 2012 Trials with a distance of 27-4. The two-time NCAA champion finished 10th at the London Games.

Goodwin has the best distance this year coming into the games at 8.45 meters (about 27-7). Jefferson qualified at 8.03 meters (about 26-3).

"I just want to do my best and represent Tyler, Texas," Jefferson said.

NOTES: The U.S. Olympic Trials begin on Friday and continue through July 10 at Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon. … NBC will air more than 30 hours of Trials coverage between its main channel, NBC Sports Network, and its streaming platform, NBC Sports Live Extra. … The long jump prelims are scheduled to be shown on NBC on Saturday. The Trials feature 10 running events, the men's decathlon, the women's heptathlon, the 20K race walk, and eight field events (high jump, pole vault, long jump, triple jump, shot put, discus, hammer, and javelin). … Besides a spot on the Olympic team, athletes can also win prize money for top performances. First place gets $10,000 and the money is awarded down to $1,000 for seventh place.

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Sports Editor

I am a native Tylerite and I grew up reading the Tyler Morning Telegraph and The Tyler Courier-Times. My parents took both the morning and afternoon papers. I came to work here 35 years ago at the age of 23, right after college.