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TAMPA — At least 40 flavors are represented in her footwear. Air Force jet flyovers aren’t as loud as 15-year-old Ryann McEnany’s size 7 Asics.
“My mom’s like, ‘Those are so ugly, you’re going to be made fun of,’ and I’m like, ‘Mom, I don’t care. I want to stand out,’ ” said McEnany, an Academy of the Holy Names sophomore who dominated last weekend’s Berkeley Prep Invitational.
“They’re actually men’s shoes, but I didn’t care. I just got them because I liked the way they looked.”
If the season’s first major meet is any sign, McEnany’s shoe hue soon won’t matter. She’s bound to distinguish herself regardless. If not visually, then vertically and horizontally.
A converted competitive cheerleader, McEnany won three individual events — the 100- and 300-meter hurdles and long jump — at Berkeley Prep.
Tack on the opening leg she ran for the Jaguars’ victorious 4x400 relay team, and it’s tough arguing McEnany was the brightest among a constellation of Jags stars in their landslide team triumph over 18 other schools.
“It was a good steppingstone toward her goals for the rest of the season,” AHN coach Kelly Griffin said.
At Saturday’s Charles Johnson Invitational at King High, McEnany will brandish her leaps and bounds yet again, looking as if she stepped in a puddle of rainbow sherbet en route to the track.
A year ago at this time, standing out was far less of a concern than burning out.
A competitive cheerleader for the Brandon All-Stars for roughly a decade, McEnany had reached a crossroads. Cheering had provided her the power, flexibility and vertical proficiency to excel as a hurdler. Now it was hindering her; the demands of both sports were too great.
“She was always tired,” Griffin recalled. “Her back hurt, her legs hurt.”
“Cheerleading was interfering with track, track was interfering with cheerleading,” added McEnany, who still cheers for Jesuit High during football and basketball season.
“The coaches were on the phone with each other, yelling at each other sometimes, and it just wasn’t good. It was, like, hard for my schoolwork.”
The tipping point occurred in April. At the Class 2A, Region 3 meet in Naples, McEnany qualified for state with a third-place finish in the 300 hurdles. She and her parents then hopped in their black 7 Series BMW and headed directly from the meet to Orlando — arriving after midnight — for the IASF Cheerleading Worlds competition.
“Competitive cheerleading is exactly that — competitive,” said AHN assistant Symone Whittaker, a former USF and Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas hurdler who won a state title in the 300 hurdles in 2001.
“The amount of time that was required and the workouts I gave her, she was drained. …Either way, I’d be happy with whatever she chose, but I knew that she would be a good hurdler, so I wanted to motivate her to go in that direction.”
She followed. Determining that scholarship potential was greater in track, McEnany chose to break ties with competitive cheering in May. Soon, Whittaker projects, she’ll break three school records.
Her long jump at Berkeley (16 feet, 4 inches) was less than 3 inches shy of Mallory Davis’ 6-year-old school record. Her hurdling efforts (48.70 in the 300, 16.57 in the 100) lead Whittaker to believe the school marks in those events (46.38 and 15.13) also are in peril.
If she shatters them, she’ll follow in the steps of older brother Michael, who runs at Wake Forest and was on Jesuit’s 4x800 relay team that won two state titles. Times, Whittaker says, will dwindle as technique improves.
Currently, McEnany is leaping well over the hurdle instead of skimming it, especially in the 100. Her trail leg also could use some polishing.
“Once she starts driving through the hurdle a little bit better, then the 100-meter hurdle time will be broken,” Whittaker said.
“We’ve got a few things to correct but I think she can go in the high (15-second range) this year (in the 100), and by the time she graduates I’m expecting her to be in the high 14s at least.”
Seems like a shoe-in.
“My mom basically just said, ‘We’ll try this year for track, and if you don’t like it then we’ll go back to cheerleading,’ ” McEnany said. “But seeing as how I did in the Saturday meet, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be with track for the rest of high school.”