On a day when three top Melissa track and field athletes signed national letters of intent with respected institutions of higher learning, their physical achievements kept being overshadowed by another trait: character. It’s a word that came up repeatedly in describing seniors Priscilla Adejokun, Karrington Lewis and Elijah Mackey who on Monday, April 17, made their collegiate choices official at a lunchtime assembly in Melissa High’s main gymnasium.

Adejokun will attend Rice University this fall as Lewis heads to Abilene Christian University and Mackey moves on to Rogers State University in Claremore, Oklahoma. The trio was joined at the celebration by a large gathering of friends, family and coaches.

Priscilla Adejokun

Adejokun owns Melissa’s school records in the shot put and discus throw and last year — after first-place shot-put finishes in district, area and regional meets — she placed fourth at the state meet in Austin. That year she also placed second in the discus at area and fifth at regionals. In 2015, Adejokun advanced to the regional meet in both the shot put and discus. At the most recent district meet, April 12-13, she claimed the shot-put gold medal and a silver in the discus — with area, regional and state meets still to come.

Her achievements aren’t limited to track and field. Adejokun was a state champion powerlifter as well — and a member of the school’s color guard — and an accomplished singer — and a Homecoming Queen.

“I have never coached a young student athlete that has been more recruited than Priscilla Adejokun,” Melissa girls track coach Theodore Mackey III said. “A day, a week did not go by where a Division I school was not emailing me about Priscilla. When they found out all the things that she did on top of track, they were like, ‘Wow.’ … Rice was the place she had looked at and she had wanted to go to because of the program. We were just thankful that it all worked out for her.”

“It’s been really exciting,” Adejokun said of signing day. “I was really pumped to know that so much of the student body was willing to support all of us.”

She called whittling down her available choices “kind of hard,” adding, “A lot of things went into consideration — a good education, for sure. I did want to compete and I knew if I wanted to compete, I wanted to compete at a high level. … It was cool to know that such a great school would want me there. … It’ll be competitive, but I think that I always do well when I’m around people who do better than me.”

As for her desired field of study while competing for the Rice Owls, Adejokun said, “That’s still up in the air.”

Her mother, Elizabeth, said her daughter has always been “smart, outgoing, friendly, talented — and a great kid.”

Her father, Adeleye, said of the occasion, “Let’s just say I give all grace and thanks to God, because we never expected it. But she kept excelling and we kept praying and God is making it happen.”

He added, “She’s always been pushing herself to do whatever she wants to do. She’d say, ‘Dad, I want to try this,’ and I’d say, ‘Are you sure?’” he laughed. “If she says yes and I see that she’s serious about it, we throw our support behind her.”

Assistant track coach Clay McCarter said, “There’s no questioning the mark that she had made on this program and the legacy that she is leaving behind in track and field. … In looking down the road at the future of this program, without Priscilla being a part of it as she moves on to the next level, it leaves a void. … Those records, just like every other record that’s ever been set, tend to fall. But the one thing that she will leave behind that I don’t know that we will ever see again is the legacy of character that she has displayed.”

Elijah Mackey

Mackey holds Melissa school records in the 1,600 meters, the 3,200 meters and the 5K - — recently setting that mark at 16 minutes flat. He is a district and regional cross-country champion and last year placed 10th at the state cross country meet. He was a state-qualifier in cross country the year before as well. At this year’s district meet, Elijah again won the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races, with area, regional and state meets still on the horizon.

“It feels pretty good,” Mackey said of signing day. “I’m just staying focused on the season. We’re going to finish out the season, then we’ll be happy later.”

Elijah said he was impressed with the Rogers State Hillcats track program, its coach and the campus. He plans to be a physical therapist or “something along those lines.” Elijah has also been a standout defender on Melissa’s soccer team.

“Track is a little more serious for me,” he said, “but soccer is pretty fun.”

“We can attest that Elijah is fast,” cross-country and boys soccer coach Kelley Pitzer said. “He’s ridiculously fast. However I don’t think that’s what we need to focus on. This year, Elijah came in with the idea that he was going to be a leader. … With that I think he truly made everybody better. So it wasn’t just the accolades, it wasn’t the times. It was the character.”

Coach Mackey, recalling his son’s early track days, said, “I always reflect on one of my best friends, (girls track coach) Hoot Jones at Anna. I remember Hoot watching Elijah run in the seventh grade — actually coming to watch in the fifth or sixth grade, when he ran summer track. Elijah would be back of the pack, middle of the pack, and Hoot would always say, ‘You know? He doesn’t seem to get rattled. Be patient.’ … And, man, I have watched him go from being in the back to the middle to the front, and commandingly do it. But I think the greater thing for me as a parent is to hear things like what Kelley said: the fact that he decided to be a leader for his cross country team, the fact that he decided to be a leader on the track team.”

“He’s self-motivated,” Melissa boys athletic director Seth Stinton. “He works harder than any kid I’ve ever seen. He’s in the weight room when I get here in the morning, working out already. That’s just a testament to how bad he wants to win and be successful. His mom and dad are great folks. Elijah’s a great kid and he’s going to be missed in Melissa.”

“He has been a great leader for our entire team,” Melissa boys track coach Travis Roberson said. “His character and work ethic have been a great example, especially to the young track team we’ve had this year.”

Roberson recalled a meet photographer recently asking him which athlete was Mackey. Roberson said he didn’t see him at the moment but that once the race started he would be the one ahead of everyone else — way ahead. Roberson also noted that Mackey is currently ranked No. 1 in Texas Class 4A in both the 1,600 and 3,200 meters.

Karrington Lewis

Lewis owns Melissa school records in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and is a member of the school-record-holding 4x200-meter relay team. She has collected multiple district, area and regional medals over her career and has been a state-qualifier twice in the 4x400-meter relay. In 2016, that team took fourth place at the state meet. She’s also been a district champion is the 100 and 200, and at April’s district meet Lewis claimed another gold medal in the 100. Melissa, with Lewis running the anchor leg, also took gold that day in the 4x200 relay.

As with her signee teammates, the high school books aren’t yet closed on Lewis. Area, regional and state meets are around the corner.

“I’m trying to get under 12 (seconds) in the 100, and in the 4x200 we’re trying to break the record again and go to state — also in the 4x400,” she said. “We’re trying to qualify for all of that, and it’s looking good.”

Lewis called signing day “exciting” and “kind of scary.”

“Leaving my family and everything, it’s not going to be like high school anymore,” she said. “I was trying not to cry. I’ve been working for this for a long time and it finally happened.”

Lewis plans to study pre-med while achieving on the track for ACU’s Wildcats and she believes she’d like to be an orthopedic surgeon.

“Karrington Lewis has earned the right to be here today,” Coach Mackey said. “She’s put in many hours, many years.”

He noted that now Lewis will be starting over.

“She will be competing at an entirely different level, with equal and even better competition,” he said. “What will carry Karrington through? Hard work, discipline, persevering, believing and always keeping hope.” He added, “Having the grades and character to get into Abilene Christian was amazing.”

“I couldn’t be happier,” mother Candace Lewis said. “She’s worked so hard to get to this point. … She started at nine years old, running for the North Texas Jackrabbits. She’s run ever since and she’s always wanted to run at the college level, D-I. She was determined to do that.” With the Jackrabbits track club, Karrington was a member of a national-champion 4x400 relay team.

“It’s been a long, long road,” father Fred Lewis said. “We went through a lot of success as a youth coming up, but then we had injuries and hurdles that we had to overcome. We didn’t know if she would be able to persevere but by the grace of God we’re here.”

Of both Lewis and Adejokun, Melissa girls athletic director Claude Webb said, “I’ve known both of these kids since they were in elementary school. I’ve watched them grown up and watched them compete, and had some great times with them off the field, on the track. These two will not be replaced. There’s no way. They’ve left a big legacy at our school.”