RCW: A Guardian Angel
A post shared by Darius Releford (@okdarius) on Jan 26, 2018 at 5:06pm PST
Happy Mother’s Day to the most gorgeous woman I ever knew. I miss her more and more with each passing day. I wished you could of been there yesterday to see me not only be ranked first in the state in track, but to also see me walk across the stage in my cap and gown. You inspire me to become a great person I grew up to be and I do that for you. In hopes that it makes you smile down upon me in heaven. I love you mom. Happy Mother’s Day???
A post shared by Darius Releford (@okdarius) on May 14, 2017 at 4:50pm PDT
History has been made again at EMHS. Our boys track team is one of the greatest, loving, and hard working team out here. We all battle through injury. If you could see every practice we have. EMHS hard work and dedication is nothing to be messed with. We…Are… #EdmondBulldogs??
A post shared by Darius Releford (@okdarius) on May 14, 2016 at 6:50pm PDT
Motivating. Loving. Selfless. Compassionate. Inspiring. Nurturing. Supportive.
These are just a few of the words that might come to mind when you think of a mother. You expect to grow up with her by your side. She’s supposed to teach you something new every day, comfort you on your bad days, and always be your No. 1 supporter. Whether you’re on the court, the field, the track, or the ice, you’re able to look up at her during a good or a bad game and she’ll always give you a thumbs up or a smile.
Now imagine this. You’re in first grade and your mom is dropping you off for school just like she does every day. She tells you, “Have a good day, I’ll see you after school.” You wave to her while she drives off, anxiously waiting until you see her again in the afternoon. You can’t wait for the time she picks you up and asks how your day was. You’re already thinking of how to convince her to stop for some ice cream on the way home. It was a day just like any other for seven-year-old Darius Releford, a normal day that would eventually turn into a nightmare for the now-Kansas freshman hurdler.
“She dropped me off at school, but later my aunt came to pick me up. She was crying and I didn’t know what for,” Releford explained. “She then took me to my grandmother’s, where they eventually told me that my mother had died.”
At such a young age, you don’t really understand death. You can’t comprehend the fact that someone is truly gone forever. For Releford, he didn’t know what his mom’s sudden passing really meant. He thought that eventually he would see her again.
“At that age, I didn’t know what death really meant. It took me awhile to grasp the real meaning of her death,” Releford said.
Having to cope with a death is hard. But having to cope with a death that happened so suddenly and so surprisingly is unfathomable, especially when you’re only seven years old.
Losing a person as significant as your mother is difficult at any age. You begin to act and feel different. There are so many more hardships that you could begin to face and being in that situation so young definitely took a toll on Releford.
“My personality changed a lot (after my mom’s death),” Releford explained. “I was a happy kid, but then I became a huge introvert. I wasn’t talking as much, or hanging out with people and I started having anger issues.”
Without another primary caregiver, his grandmother took over the job of raising him.
“She raised me to become a better man. She used the things that happened in her personal life to raise me as a better person than people she had experienced,” Releford said.
When his grandmother wasn’t taking care of him, Releford’s aunt took over. As his mother’s sister, his aunt was able to play a significant role in his life as both a mentor and a caretaker. Even with the help of his aunt and grandmother, the Edmond, Oklahoma, native was going to have to learn how to continue on through life, and hopefully prosper, without having his mother by his side. . He still had middle school, high school and college ahead of him; periods of times in life which are tough as is, let alone without your mom.
In middle school, Releford began participating in track & field, mostly as a hobby.
“I started track to keep in shape for football and basketball because that was really what I wanted to do at that time,” said Releford. My friend convinced me to try hurdles with him and I ended up being really good.”
At that point, hurdles became more than just a hobby for Releford, it became a passion. He began working hard and devoted time to becoming better and faster. The more he improved, and the better he competed on the track, Releford realized he could actually do something with this passion at which he excelled.
“When I was a sophomore, I placed at state (track & field meet),” Releford said. “That was when I really realized that I could go farther with hurdles.”
Athletes face a lot of adversity, including injuries. There is a whole spectrum of injuries when it comes to athletics. There are some that leave you out for a few days, maybe a game or two, and then there are some injuries which can make your athletic career, and future, come to a screeching halt.
In his junior year at Edmond Memorial High School, Releford suffered from iliotibial band syndrome in his left knee. It’s an extremely painful condition where tissue rubs against the thighbone, causing major suffering in the knee. It’s an injury which is fairly common for track athletes because of their extensive usage of their legs. If not treated properly or quickly enough, it can worsen and become a real problem.
Releford had a choice to make when it came to his injury. He could either give up on everything he had worked for up to that point because of the injury, or he could go through the proper treatment and continue to work on what he could so that he could continue his career.
Releford chose to not let injury prevent him from following his passion, which he explained when he said, “It killed my whole season until the very end where I was able to run for pre-state. I placed there, so I went to state and I ended up placing third.”
Through the pain and the struggle, Releford could’ve easily thrown in the towel and quit. But he decided to keep going, partly due to his mother’s continuous motivation.
“I thought about giving up every day. I couldn’t run and everyone around me was getting better and improving. My mom is the only reason I want to try so hard,” Releford said.
His mother was with him then and is still with him in everything that he does now. She watches over her son and she is still his protector. Because of her, Releford wants to inspire others through the things he does not only on the track, and in the classroom as well.
As a civil engineering major, Releford came to Kansas to be a part of the Jayhawks’ track & field team, but also for the school’s impeccable engineering program. It’s because of his late mother that he has such big dreams. He hopes to use his future as a way to live out her legacy and give back to those who helped him grow into the man he is today.
“She’s my motivation behind everything I do daily,” Releford said. “I want to do good for myself, my family, and for her. I want to become an engineer and build myself a house, but also build my grandmother a house.”
Releford pays tribute to his mother before every race he competes in by making a cross over his body with his hands. He also prays for a minute or two, sending his prayers up to his mother in heaven as she watches down over him. He has two tattoos that are symbolic in remembrance of the mother she was as well as of his love for her.
A mother’s love can never be replaced by anyone else. It is always there, whether she is there with him physically or mentally. Darius Releford now has his own guardian angel who is with him through all that he accomplishes in life.