After setting a personal-best while winning the 800 meters, Gabrielle Jennings of First Baptist Christian took some time to encourage another competitor who wound up on the awards stand for the first time.
When Jennings found out the girl was an eighth-grader, she said, “Girl, you’ve got four more years. You keep working, and you’ll be as fast we me.”
Whether that is possible may be a point for debate. Jennings’ status as one of Louisiana’s elite distance runners is not. The junior broke her own Class C records in two distance events to help highlight Thursday’s action at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA State Outdoor Track & Field meet.
“That was a personal best for me in the 800,” a smiling Jennings said. “That’s something I’ve been going after for a while. And you never know what to expect.
“After I ran the 1,600 in 5 minutes, I didn’t expect this at all, so I’m happy. And the team is doing well, so I’m happy about that too.”
Jennings helped lead First Baptist to a runner-up finish in the Class C girls competition. Hackberry scored 170.3 points to win the team title. First Baptist was next at 82, while Epps took third with 57.
Ruston’s New Living Word was the Class C boys champion with 125 points, while Alexandria’s Grace Christian swept the Class B titles in the meet at LSU’s Bernie Moore Track Stadium.
Jennings won the 1,600 meters for the seventh straight year in a Class C record time 5 minutes, 00.60 seconds to help open the meet, a time that was two seconds off her personal best. Younger sister Madelyn was second.
Next came the 800, a race Jennings won for the fifth straight year. Her 2:16.92 time was a personal best and a Class C record. She closed out her day by winning the 3,200 in 11:36.77.
She now has 37 combined state titles in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track and was selected as the Outstanding Girls Performer.
“We just missed second last year,” First Baptist coach Todd Jennings said. “As you can see, we only have six or seven girls. If we had 20, we could do more damage.
“They worked hard and did what we needed to do. This means a lot to the school and program.”
Jennings was not the only New Orleans area distance runner who made an early splash in Class C.
Holy Rosary’s Alex Lewis edged rival Randy Carter Jr. of Jehovah-Jireh at the finish line to win the boys 1,600 in 4:36.40, winning by four-tenths of a second.
Though Carter, the 800 champion was voted the Outstanding Boys Performer, Lewis garnered another win, edging Carter in the 3,200 with a winning time 10:08.94 in the second of his two races.
“I just went out and stayed behind and tried to beat him (Carter) at the end,” Lewis said. “I tried to pick it up on the final laps.”
Melody Roberts also was a double-winner for First Baptist. Roberts won the high jump in 4 feet, 8 inches and the long jump in 15-8½. She also took third in the 400. First Baptist capped off the meet with a victory in the 4x400 relay in 4:37.81.
Reagan Darbonne, who won the 100 meters in 12.95 seconds and the pole vault in a record mark of 9-6 ¼, led Lake Charles area power Hackberry.