Gabrielle Jennings admits it’s sometimes hard to keep up with just how many LHSAA state championship medals she has won in track and field (indoor and outdoor) and cross-country in her young, but stellar, career.
“Yes, sometimes it’s tough, especially when I try to remember the individual ones,” said Jennings, a sophomore at First Baptist Christian School in Slidell. “I used to keep them all in a bin, but these past couple years I have just sort of scattered them everywhere because I have been so busy.”
Her total is 26. That’s 24 individual titles and two when she ran the anchor leg on the 4x400-meter relay team.
Jennings looks to add to that haul when she competes in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association track and field state championships, which runs Thursday through Saturday at LSU’s Bernie Moore Stadium.
Teams in Class C, which includes First Baptist, and Class B will compete Thursday. Class 1A and 2A is set for Friday, while 3A, 4A and 5A schools will compete Saturday.
Jennings, who won her first cross-country state championship as a fifth grader, could possibly push her total to 30 state titles Thursday when she competes in the 400, 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters.
“This is my first time competing in the 400 meters at state, so it should be fun,” she said. “My strategy is to go out super hard in the mile (1,600) and try to get Kailtlin Flattman’s state record.”
Flattman (Benton) set the state meet record with a time of 4:56.04 in 2011.
“I think she has that type of time in her,” said First Baptist coach Todd Jennings, Gabbi’s father. “The problem is she doesn’t always get pushed as much in Louisiana. But she has had quite a year.”
Like always, Jennings will have one of her biggest fans cheering her on.
Her grandfather, Clarence Jennings, has made his annual trip from Virginia to watch her run.
“It wouldn’t be the same without him being there,” Jennings said.
She won’t be the only granddaughter he gets to watch.
Eighth-grader Madelyn Jennings, Gabbi’s sister, will compete in the 800, 1600 and 3200 and anchor the 4x400 relay.
“Madelyn has had a really good season,” said First Baptist coach Todd Jennings, also Madelyn’s dad. “She has always been in Gabrielle’s shadow, so to speak in her mind. I tell her that she has to run for herself. She plays soccer, but she hasn’t trained much. But I have a feeling she is going to run a really good time. She is just in the eighth grade, so she has a lot of potential.”
First Baptist, which won a state title in 2012, will have five other girls competing Thursday.
The others are: sophomore Lexi Reviere (javelin, 4x100 relay, 4x400 relay); junior Hannah Robert (4x100 relay and high jump); sophomore Abigail Whitmarsh (400 and 4x100 relay); junior Calah Lentz (4x100 relay and long jump); and eighth-grader Cheyanne Lentz (400 relay and 4x400 relay).
“We are only bringing seven girls, so that makes it tough,” said Todd Jennings. “The team favored to win has basically two girls in every event, so it’s hard to compete with that. But we have a good shot at getting second.”
First Baptist also has three boys competing.
They are: senior Ryan Watts (discus); junior Andrew Brashear (discus) and sophomore Quinten Wesley (shot put).
“Quinten is actually probably a favorite to win it,” Todd Jennings said.