Sports

Story published: 05-15-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

J.R. Speed and Jacob Henson qualify for sectionals


By Jonathan Pleasant

After a strong showing at conference, the JCHS track and field program continued their impressive season by sending nearly half the team on to sub-sectionals in Greeneville last week. Competing against schools in their own district, including Elizabethton and Happy Valley, the Longhorns also got the opportunity to test their abilities against more distant rivals, such as Grainger County and Gatlinburg-Pittman.

Thirteen students in all qualified to take part in one of the many events, with several going on to land top 10 finishes. Senior Jacob Henson was the only Longhorn participating in field events, with the rest of the team either running individually or working together on a relay team.

While Henson has been known for his ability to put some distance on the long jump, he actually took a gamble this time in attempting the triple jump, an event he just started at recently. That decision seemed to pay off with an amazing performance that left him at the top of the pack. “He jumped at conference and got first place,” said head coach Penny Gentry. “That was his first time ever competing in that event and then he jumped last week in sub-sectionals and won first place there as well. He is now seeded first to go on to sectionals out of area teams all the way from Chattanooga this direction.”

The event is similar to the long jump, except that as the name implies, the competitor takes three jumps in a series. Coming in more than a foot ahead of the second place finish, Henson easily took the top position with a 41ft. 2.25in final result. Never having competed in this event before, it was a shock to see such an amazing performance, but as Gentry pointed out, this was something Henson had been thinking about for quite some time. “Jacob has done very well in a short amount of time,” Gentry said. “He had talked about it since last summer, wanting to do it, and Mark Humphrey, a teacher at Roan Creek, had participated in the triple jump when he was in high school. He worked with Jacob, showed him how a time or two this summer and Jacob just picked it up from there. We just roll with it but it’s gone far, and that’s just Jacob being the athlete he is.”

Yet, Henson wasn’t the only member of Johnson County’s team who got the opportunity to move on, as sophomore J.R. Speed got his chance with a stellar performance in the 100-meter race. Coming in at 11.6, Speed sealed the third place position just two hundredths of a second behind Elizabethton’s Ethan Thomas, but well ahead of Pigeon Forge’s Jerrod Jinnette in fourth. The top three spots qualify to move on, giving the Longhorns a second competitor at sectionals in Knoxville.

“I think J.R. surprised himself,” Coach Gentry said about the placement. “I know from having him in elementary school that J.R. is very fast, but I think he shocked himself last week and is very happy with the results. We didn’t know really what to expect with him coming back from his shoulder surgery and then having rehab, how well he’d be able to run. He’s really surprised everybody, but pleasantly surprised.”

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