At just 5-foot-1, Rikianne Patterson of Karr may not look like your typical long jumper.
But don’t let her size fool you.
Patterson, a sophomore, won the prestigious Mobile (Ala.) Challenge of Champions on Saturday with a leap of 18 feet, 1 inch.
“I’m always the shortest one in the competitions,” Patterson said with a laugh. “I don’t let my height get to me. People underestimate me when they see me and they will say ‘I know this small girl isn’t going to win.’ ”
So far, they have been wrong.
Patterson is undefeated this season in her four meets and won in Mobile a week after winning the Sugar Bowl Classic with a jump of 17-10.
Her jump Saturday was a season best but still shy of her personal best jump of 18-6 that she did in the Junior Olympics.
“I was really nervous (in Mobile) because the entries were better than my PR,” Patterson said. “But that made me really focused in practice last week because I knew the competition was going to be tough. So I didn’t let it discourage me.”
It’s her first season of varsity track, but she began long jumping when she was 11 years old.
“When I was around park ball age, I tried high jump, and that didn’t work,” Patterson said. “I tried ball throwing, and that didn’t work. There was something about the long jump, and I just kept breaking records. So I stuck with it.”
Patterson also runs the 100 meters and has the fastest time in the state in Class 4A this season.
“She runs down that runway (for the long jump) like she is attacking the 100,” Karr tack coach Nile Legania said. “She is definitely trying to double at the state meet.”
Patterson finished third in the long jump in the indoor state meet shortly after joining the team after basketball season.
She was one of three New Orleans area athletes to claim first place honors in Mobile.
Gabrielle Jennings, a junior at First Baptist Christian, repeated as champion in the mile in a time of 5:02.60.
“I felt like I ran well,” said Jennings. “There were a lot of girls who ran under 5:10, so it was a great field.”
Samantha Zelden of St. Scholastica won the javelin with a throw of 147-6. Zelden finished second last season at the meet with a throw of 138-4.
“It was different this time,” Zelden said. “I went into the meet having a little more confidence about throwing the rubber-tip javelin. And I had a better idea of the surroundings. But in way it wasn’t different because there was stronger competition in this meet, and the competitors were familiar with the javelin. The weather also proved to be a challenge because three was a strong headwind.”
In boys action, Devyn Keith of John Curtis finished second in the mile run in a time of 4:18.41.
Thomas Peters of Brother Martin finished third in the javelin with a throw of 174-8, and Devin Savwoir of Curtis finished third in the shot put (52-6).