Boyd Gaming: son of Amelia Belle team member to compete in 2021 Olympics

Growing up in New Orleans and later Morgan City, Louisiana, aspiring track star Vernon Norwood told his friends he wanted to make his mom proud.

Being selected for the 2021 U.S. Olympic team – Vernon will be part of the 4X400-meter relay in Tokyo – is enough to make any parent proud. But Charliette Ray, a member of the security staff at Boyd Gaming’s Amelia Belle Casino in Louisiana, has long been proud of her son, but for a different reason: his academic accomplishments.

“I told her awhile ago” Tootie (Vernon’s childhood nickname), I’m very proud of you. Not because of your athletic ability – but because you graduated from high school, you graduated. You went to college and got your associate degree. And then you graduated from one of the top colleges (LSU) in the state of Louisiana.

“With the Olympics, I’m so, so excited. But I was already so proud of him.

Vernon’s academic abilities became evident at a young age. As the youngest of four siblings, Vernon emulated his older brothers as a child, even when it was time to study.

“When his brothers came home from school to do their homework, Tootie would sit with them, do what they were doing, even though he was too young for school,” recalls Charliette, a single mother. “One day I shouted, ‘Come on, Tootie. Let’s take your brothers to school. So he comes out of his room with one of his brother’s uniforms and his schoolbag.

When it came time for Vernon to enter pre-K, Charliette said, her test scores were very high. She knew then that he would thrive in an academic environment.

“Tootie always got good grades,” Charliette said. “Throughout school.

Vernon, 29, graduated from Morgan City High School and played on the track team at South Plains College in Texas before transferring to LSU, where he was a four-time NCAA champion.

Vernon won gold medals at the World Athletics Championships in Beijing in 2015 and Doha, Qatar in 2019. He was part of the gold medal relay team in Yokohama, Japan in 2019 .

Vernon was named to the US Olympic relay team after placing fifth (44.92 seconds) in the 400-meter at the US Olympic Trials in June in Eugene, Ore.. In Tokyo, he could compete in the men’s and mixed events (two men, two women) 400-meter relay races.

“Yeah, man, I’m going to the Olympics,” Vernon wrote on Twitter after the practice. ‘It hit me.’

He leaves for Tokyo on July 24.

Back home in Louisiana, it will be party time when the track and field events begin.

“Morgan City is a very small community, and they’re excited about it,” Charliette said. “I met the mother of one of his best friends at the market the other day. She said they were going to party.

Other members of Amelia Belle’s team asked about Vernon’s schedule and TV viewing options: “Miss Charliette,” they told her, “please let us know when you will find out “.

Even when Vernon leaves the country, he talks to his mother every day. She will find out.

As always, Charliette will be proud of her son. And just before the cannon sounds to start the 4X400 relay, she’ll be excited and a little nervous – and she’ll gently say a little prayer before her son competes on the world’s biggest stage.


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