ST. PETERSBURG — Last year, Rayshawn Jenkins blasted out of the blocks, cleared the hurdles cleanly and lunged across the finish ahead of his competitors to win the 110-meter hurdles at the Class A state meet.
The Admiral Farragut junior is expected to win his signature event again. He has the top-seed mark of 14.23 seconds heading into today’s meet at Showalter Field in Winter Park. That time is .45 seconds ahead of his closest competitor and .16 seconds better than his winning time a year ago.
What is unexpected is Jenkins’ meteoric rise in the long jump, an event that holds a special place in school lore.
After all, the Blue Jackets’ Ed Manderson leaped a state record 25 feet, 2 inches in the long jump in 1986 (that record was surpassed in 2002 by Dixie Hollins’ Kevin Marion, who went 25-5). Two other AFA athletes, Bernard Scott (2006) and Josh Birch (2008), won state titles in the long jump.
Jenkins is within striking distance of becoming the fourth.
He is seeded third with a leap of 22-8, 1.25 inches off the top mark. That is quite an improvement for Jenkins, whose previous best entering this season was 20 feet.
“I knew I would do well in the hurdles and have a good shot at winning again,” Jenkins said. “But the biggest surprise is the long jump. I’ve made a lot of gains and it’s something I think I could win.”
For the Blue Jackets to contend for a top-three finish in the team standings, Jenkins will have to be a point-scoring machine. He also is seeded fourth in the triple jump (44-6.5) and is running third leg on the 4x100 relay team that is seeded third (43.56 seconds.) His performance will be even more important considering AFA is without Gem Runyan, who is injured and will not be able to defend his state title in the pole vault.
“I think I can be in the top four in each of my events,” Jenkins said. “That should help us stay near the top as a team.”
State track and field
Where: Showalter Field, Winter Park
When: A, Friday. Field events and 4x800 relay finals, 1 p.m.; running event preliminaries, 4 p.m.; running event finals, 6:30 p.m.
Admission: $8, parking is $5