Freshman shifts focus to new goal

Friday, May 31, 2002

Southeast Missouri State University's Heather Jenkins has more confidence in her athletic skills than a lot of college freshman.

It's the reason she thought qualifying for the NCAA Track & Field Championships would be a realistic -- albeit difficult -- goal to achieve.

"I thought I could do it, but I knew it would be hard," she said.

Jenkins did it, even if she waited until the last possible moment. During the final qualifying meet the NCAA allows -- the Georgia Tech Invitational, a last-chance event on May 18 -- Jenkins surpassed her previous career-best throw in the discus by more than 12 feet to earn an NCAA berth with a toss of 173-11.

A graduate of Central High School, Jenkins will compete today in the national meet in Baton Rouge, La.

"I'm very excited," Jenkins said. "This exceeds big-time what I expected out of my freshman year. This was my goal. I knew it would be really tough, but I worked very hard and did it."

The sports adage about peaking at the right time held true for Jenkins. Her rookie college season was productive throughout, but she did save the best for last.

Early this month, Jenkins won both the discus and shot put during the Ohio Valley Conference Championships held in Cape Girardeau. Her discus throw of 162-9 broke the school record that stood since 1983 by more than two feet.

Two weeks later came the performance at Georgia Tech. Even with Jenkins' confidence, that took her by surprise.

A big improvement

"I never expected to throw over 12 feet more than my personal best," she said. "But I worked hard all year and just peaked at the right time."

Jenkins, who was ranked nationally as a high-schooler last year after finishing second in both the discus and shot put during the Class 4A state meet, credits Southeast throws coach Eric Crumpecker for much of her success this season.

"Coach Eric is really a big help," Jenkins said. "He knows so much about my events and he has really worked with me."

Supreme confidence or not, Jenkins is realistic about her chances of placing high at nationals. She enters the NCAA meet ranked 18th out of 21 competitors.

"I'm just glad I'm there. It's going to be really fun to compete against the best in the nation," she said. "My goal as a freshman is to try and experience everything there and do the best I can. No matter how I do, I'm still going to be happy."

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