For a second, it looked like Hickman sophomore JaBarbara Jennings had finally encountered an event she couldn’t win.
The speed that had served her so well in triple jump, long jump and 100-meter dash was fading fast. With 200 meters left in the 400-meter race, Jennings said she could feel her legs starting to slow.
But the feeling didn’t last long.
“When I got to 150 meters left, I was ready to go,” she said.
As she ran down the final stretch, Jennings distanced herself from the rest of the runners. Her arms and legs pumped smoothly and she finished in 60.0 seconds. First, as usual.
Jennings would run the 400 again on Tuesday, as the first leg of Hickman’s 4x400 meter relay. She also came in first in the triple jump (35 feet, 6 1/2 inches) and the long jump (17-6 1/2).
Her first-place finishes helped lead the Hickman girls’ track team past Rock Bridge 88-57 on Tuesday at Hickman. The Kewpie boys also defeated Rock Bridge, 85-59. It was the first meet of the season for both schools.
Hickman assistant coach Stewart Johnson said he thinks Jennings can be successful in both jumping and sprinting as her track career continues.
“She has a great work ethic, as you just saw in the 400,” he said.
Without Jennings, Hickman’s sprint relays struggled. The 4x100 team was disqualified after a dropped baton during the hand-off from second-leg runner S’ãde Aaron to Cierra Tatum.
In the 4x200, sophomore Shanae White had to slow down almost to a walk to get the baton for the final leg. Despite the slow start, White made up ground quickly and almost caught up to Rock Bridge’s Amanda Grayson.
“I just went too fast (in the hand-off zone),” White said. “It’s the first meet of the season, and everyone has jitters.”
White continued to “go too fast” in her open events. She won the 100 meter dash with a personal best time of 12.4 seconds and dominated in the 200 meter dash, winning in 25.66.
While the Kewpie girls struggled in their sprint relays, the Kewpie boys’ 4x100 relay featured near-perfect hand-offs.
Senior Brady Bounds ran the first leg for Hickman.
“We were focused after watching the girls drop the baton,” Bounds said. “We didn’t want two of our relays to be disqualified.”
Of course, Bounds also had the fortune of handing off to his younger brother, freshman Tucker Bounds.
“We don’t even have to practice that much,” Brady Bounds said. “It’s just a brotherly connection.”
Their relay finished in 45.4 seconds to defeat Rock Bridge by almost four seconds.
For Emily Young, a win by four seconds would have been a close race.
The Hickman senior won the mile in 5:16, almost a full lap ahead of her closest competition. Despite the wide margin, Young said she didn’t let up.
“You never feel like you’re all alone, even if you are,” Young said.
She said she hopes to improve on her time, especially with closer competition in later meets. And even after an exhausting race, Young was ready to go again.
“I’m going to see if my coach will let me run the two-mile,” she said while catching her breath.
Young also anchored the Hickman girls’ 4x400.
“As long as I can run, that’s what I want to do,” she said.
While most first places on Tuesday went to the Kewpies, one Bruin won decisively.
Unfortunately, he didn’t gather much of a crowd.
While the fans clamored to watch the action on the track, and some athletes wandered over to the long- and triple-jump pits, a lone athlete stood with his coach at the other end of the track.
Rock Bridge junior Eric Fulhage finished the high jump all alone.
He cleared 6-0, a personal best. The closest competition was out at 5-6.
“It’s kinda weird being all alone,” Fulhage said. “But I’m used to it.”
After transferring from Hickman to Rock Bridge last year, this is Fulhage’s first year of varsity track. Rock Bridge jumping coach Mike Scott said Fulhage is a great natural athlete who has had a lot of technical problems.
“He’s starting to get it,” Scott said. “His body says he can jump 6-6, he just needs to keep working on his technique.
“He’s got a lot bigger jumps left in him.”
With the bar at 6-2, Fulhage ran up lightly, arched his back and kicked up and over.
He barely nicked it, and the bar fell next to him on the mat. The same thing happened on his next two attempts, and Fulhage’s solo act was finished.
At least until the next meet.
“We try to focus on just Eric,” Scott said. “It doesn’t matter how many people are there.”
Next up for Rock Bridge track and field is the Kearney Classic meet on April 8 at 2:30 p.m. at Kearney High School. Hickman will compete in the Mizzou Invitational this weekend at MU.