Eight-year-old Jayceon Carswell has achieved something remarkable.
After competing in the Junior Olympics, he took home a second place medal in the Long Jump category for 8 and under.
Athleticism is something that seems to be imprinted upon Jayceon’s DNA. His dad was a football player at the University of Southern California (USC), and his mom played a few different sports in high school.
“He comes from a track family,” said Vanessa Lopez, Jayceon’s mom. “His grandma, dad, and auntie all ran track.”
In April 2023, Jayceon started running track at Umoja, and it turned out that he had a knack for it. He started with long distance running, but realized he wasn’t crazy about it. So he adjusted and went on to do 100- and 200-meter runs.
“He showed a lot of heart,” said Burnet Knox, also known as Coach B, who co-founded Umoja back in 2001. “I really noticed him when he was running with other kids – he was really fast and able to hang in there with them.”
One thing in particular that Coach B noticed was that Jayceon had springy legs. This gave him the idea to suggest that Jayceon try out the Long Jump.
So in June of this year, Jayceon took a shot at Long Jumping. And lo and behold, he was a natural at it.
During Jayceon’s time with Umoja, he has beaten two records for his age group in the club, for both the 200-meter run and the Long Jump.
Even before Jayceon qualified for the Junior Olympics, Coach B told him and his mom to get their bags packed and ready. The coach was right: Jayceon ended up qualifying for the 100-meter, the 200-meter, and the Long Jump.
During the first qualifier event for the Long Jump, Jayceon took first place, jumping 11 feet, 11 inches; he also nabbed first place in the second qualifier, with 11 feet, 3.5 inches.
At the end of July, they took off for Oregon to attend the USATF National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships.
Jayceon competed in the 100 and 200, but wasn’t able to win. “My son is super competitive. I know he felt defeated when he lost the 100 and 200,” Lopez said.
But as Jayceon was gearing up to compete in the Long Jump, his mom just had a feeling that he would pull through.
“That morning, I thought at least he would get into the top 8,” said Lopez. “If you’re in the top 8, you get to go onto the podium and get a medal.”
Jayceon went on to compete against 56 other jumpers, and was able to earn second place, jumping at a distance of 12 feet, 8.5 inches. The Junior Olympics marked only the fourth time he had ever competed in Long Jump.
“Jayceon is second in the nation in his division in Long Jump. He didn’t just beat those 56 kids. He’s second out of the 10,000 to 15,000 kids who all competed for Long Jump around the nation. I told him, there’s only one person who jumped further than you in 2023,” said Coach B.
Despite achieving a great deal by winning second place, Jayceon expressed some disappointment to The Beat: “I feel happy that I made it there. But I’m a little more sad than happy that I didn’t get first place.”
Lopez confirmed this, saying that her son has a competitive spirit and has been down about the fact that he didn’t get the gold. But she continues to remind him of what an amazing achievement he has under his belt – and at such a young age.
Lopez, who has lived in Milpitas for the past 27 years, told The Beat that she wanted to thank the Joseph Bettencourt Foundation for helping them to pay for her and Jayceon to make it out to the Junior Olympics. Leading up to the competition, she had posted on social media to see if anyone would donate toward their travel expenses. Her sister-in-law contacted her and asked if she had heard about the Joseph Bettencourt Foundation, and then connected her to Co-Founder Sonia Medina-Ashby, along with Juliette Gomez, one of the Board Directors.
The Joseph Bettencourt Foundation was founded in memory of Medina-Ashby’s son, an athlete who passed away in 2018 after a skateboarding accident. The foundation’s mission lies in donating to families, so that youth have access to all they need to play sports, whether it’s equipment, uniforms, fees, or travel expenses, as was the case with Lopez and her son.
“They gave $1,500 for our flights and hotel. When he came home with the medal, I found that there was this bench in Milpitas that was dedicated to Sonia’s son,” said Lopez. “So I had Jayceon sit on the bench with his medal to honor her son.”
The foundation’s Board of Directors includes Gomez, Joe Bettencourt, Jennifer Jimenez, Mike Menacho, Craig Cabral, and former Milpitas Mayor Rich Tran.
“My heart was full of so much happiness to see how happy and grateful they were to receive that check,” Medina-Ashby shared with The Beat. “And when he came back with a silver medal…Wow! I know my son JoJo was smiling down. I couldn’t have done any of this without our team and our generous donors.”
Currently, Jayceon goes to third grade at Pomeroy Elementary School. Along with being a great athlete, he’s a hard-working student and is wise well beyond his years.
“He has talent, and he always wants to win,” said Coach B. “I tell him that the goal is to keep beating yourself because there are other great athletes out there. So the goal is always to keep beating yourself. That’s how you get to the top.”