For Johnson County High School senior Jacob Henson, athletics always came naturally. Having played various sports throughout his school career, and contributing greatly to the high school golf and baseball teams, Henson still considers track and field to be his real passion. Focusing on the 100-meter dash and the long jump, the seniors raw talent and long list of accomplishments made it no surprise to his family and coaches when he accepted a substantial scholarship from Milligan College last week to join their track team.
I just love track, Henson said about his decision to join Milligan. Im fast, and I love jumping. Its just the thrill of competing in something I really like to do. I applied for UT in Knoxville and was accepted and was accepted to King College as well, but when Milligans coach emailed me and told me that he was offering me a scholarship, that was almost a done deal right there.
Henson began running competitively very early on in the seventh grade after his first track coach, Matthew Bray, gave him a little encouragement. I knew Jacob was a special young man from the very beginning, Bray said. He always put a little extra effort in. He played other sports as well and thats always hard to play more than one sport and still be able to give your 100% to both, but he did. He and I just got close and I convinced him to run track. I coached him his first year through his freshman year and Ms. Gentry has done an excellent job getting him to this point. I just kind of struck the match and she gave it some gasoline.
When asked whether or not he expected Henson to be able to go on and compete on a college level, Bray confirmed that there was never a doubt. He won the conference his freshman year, and I knew right off the bat that he would most likely be able to sign a scholarship with some college. When you win like he did as a freshman, thats talent. We have a lot of kids who are very talented, but it kind of surprises you with track because this is not something that most people think of. Jacob has outstanding character. Hes a topnotch young man who works hard in school, plays hard in sports, and has good overall moral character. Hes a fine young man and comes from a good family who has supported him the whole way. Ms. Gentry has done a good job with him, keeping him on track. So hats off to them, Im just a minor player now.
Despite Brays modesty, new head coach Penny Gentry made it very clear that Hensons journey was well underway by the time she came into the story. Coach Bray was his first coach and I came in during his sophomore year, Gentry said. Jacob shows up for the necessary meets, comes in first place, and then moves on. He makes my job easy. Jacob does a lot of practice on his own after school where he plays baseball. Jacob is a leader and hes always been that way. Ive known him since elementary school when I was his PE teacher. Hes just got that quality about him that everybody likes him. Hes honest, hes dependable, and hes there to help. If you need something he would give you the shirt off his back. Thats what a team needs. They need that leader.
Ironically, the individualism that track and field bring is one of the biggest appeals that Henson noted about the sport. Its really easy actually, Henson said. Where I play baseball I havent had to practice much or anything. Track is almost completely individual. In golf you compete as an individual and as a team and in baseball you kind of do your own thing but its a team effort. Tracks much more individualized and I really like that about it. Freshman year was really good for me. I was kind of new and the seniors really took me in. They just kept telling me I was going to do well and go far with this and they even made me captain of the 4×1 team. I won the 100-meter as a freshman and that really jumpstarted track for me.
Just as much as Henson related that he had a lot of help when he came into the program, Coach Gentry explained that Henson has played a big role helping many of the younger players on the team. Jacob is very talented, very smart and he will succeed in life and will go far at Milligan, too, Gentry predicted. Hes just an all around good guy. Hes funny; you can always count on him to give the inspirational speech after practice.
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