Clay, Jenkins join her for indoor meets at Mizzou
By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
The offseason was turned on for three members of the Brentwood High School track and field team.
Thrower Sophia Rivera and sprinters Jacob Clay and Kaylon Jenkins spent part of the winter competing in indoor track meets to get a jump on the competition they’ll face in the outdoor season, which started this week. Clay and Jenkins were also motivated by the upcoming football season. They’re the top returning running backs.
“We just wanted to get a head start on the season,” said assistant coach Robert Findley. “Other than Sophia, there wasn’t any interest in it last year. I didn’t want those guys sitting around and doing nothing.”
National indoor champion
In Rivera’s case, the offseason could not have been much more eventful. She won the shot put at two indoor meets at Mizzou in January and February. In March she won the event at the New Balance Indoor Nationals at the Armory in New York City. That’s right, Brentwood’s two-time state champ is now a national champion. She beat 38 other throwers from 14 states.
Rivera said it was the first time she’d competed at the indoor nationals because in previous years it was held after the Missouri outdoor track season had started, making her ineligible. She quickly took advantage of her eligibility, getting her winning throw of 49 feet and 1 inch on the first of six attempts. She beat the second-place thrower by 4.75 inches.
“I was super excited. It was crazy, still is,” said Rivera, a junior. “It wasn’t a best but it was a pretty good throw, only my third or fourth over 49 feet.”
Personal best in Columbia
Rivera also won the shot put at two indoor meets at Mizzou that are part of the Big River Running Company High School Series. On Jan. 18 she won with a throw of 49-7. On Feb. 22 she set a personal best with 49-9 ¼. Compare that to the 45-8 she won state with in 2014.
She uncorked the 49-9 ¼ on her final throw of the meet.
“I was throwing 45 to 46 and a girl beat me on her third throw,” Rivera said. “On my third throw I went ahead with about a 47-6. Before the last throw I was still in the lead and in my head I was thinking, ‘This is it. All out. I have nothing to lose.’ So I threw and it didn’t necessarily feel like a great throw. When I exited the ring I was saying ‘Good job’ to a couple of the other competitors and then I hear my mom cheering out of nowhere from behind me. So I look at the scoreboard and it was a 49-9 ¼ and I was ecstatic.”
Findley was sitting next to Sophia’s mother for the big throw.
“It popped up on the screen and everybody’s jaw dropped in the whole place,” said Findley. “I wasn’t sitting far from the University of Missouri’s track coach and his eyes got big.”
Rivera somehow managed to compete in indoor track while being a starter on the girls basketball team.
“I started training for the shot put at the beginning of the basketball season,” she said. “During the week it was just basketball, except I sometimes worked out at HammerBodies after basketball, a lot of core work. On Sundays I practiced with my throwing coach here in the small gym.”
Clay and Jenkins
Clay and Jenkins competed in the 200-meter dash and in the 60-meter dash at two of the Big River meets in Columbia. Clay did best in the 200 and Jenkins in the 60.
In the 200 finals on Jan. 18, Jenkins took 11th and Clay 24th in a field of 31 runners, with times of 25.31 and 26.26 seconds. In the 200 finals on Feb. 8, Jenkins was 31st and Clay 48th among 55 runners, with times of 24.89 and 25.94.
In the 60, they didn’t qualify for the finals in either meet. On Jan. 18 Clay took ninth and Jenkins took 10th among 25 runners in the preliminary round, with times of 7.59 and 7.60 seconds. On Feb. 8 Clay finished 27th and Jenkins 32nd in a field of 55 with times of 7.58 and 7.62.
“There were a lot of fast guys down there,” said Clay. “I didn’t run as fast as I wanted to, none of us did.”
Added Jenkins, “There were big schools there and it was hard, hard, hard. But I don’t want to think of that as an excuse not to perform at their level. I take it as a motivation to get better.”
Starting blocks in cafeteria
With no indoor running facility at BHS, practice was a challenge but Jenkins and Clay made due. They were joined by their football teammate Skylar Sappington.
“We practiced twice a week,” said Findley. “We got outside at least two or three times but we also practiced in the hallway, in the gym and we took blocks down into the cafeteria and worked on our starts.”