‘Striving for Bigger Things’
Two days after winning the heptathlon at the National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships, Hannah Hensley’s focus was already on the bigger challenges ahead.
Representing the Sandhills Track Club, the 15-year-old rising Pinecrest sophomore Wednesday won the seven-event, two-day competition held in Sacramento, Calif. Her dominating performance in the intermediate girl’s age group (born 1994 or 1995) included a personal-best high jump of 5 feet 8.75 inches. That eclipsed her 5-7 leap that set a new Pinecrest school record during the spring high school season.
Hensley finished with a final point total of 4,725 in the event made famous by the gold medal performances of Jackie Joyner-Kersee at the 1988 and 1992 Olympics. Urina Harrell, of the Together Elite Track Club of Lakewood, Calif., was second with 4,565 points. She also placed second in the individual high jump event held on Thursday.
On Friday, Hensley talked about her experience by phone while visiting relatives, including her grandmother, Carolyn Hensley, in the Los Angeles area.
“I went there with the mindset that I had the potential to win,” she said. “It was just a matter of piecing it together and having a positive attitude.
“Honestly, it may sound horrible to say this, but it just seemed like another meet. It shows my hard work with the coaches is working, but I’m striving for bigger things.”
Also accompanying coach Nat Carter and competing at the USA Track and Field (USATF) sponsored event as members of Sandhills TC were recent Union Pines graduate John Minott, Peter Deucher, a home school student from Vass, and David Shaw (St. Paul’s) and Eric Upchurch (Harnett Central).
The scoring for the heptathlon comes from formulas based upon benchmark performance levels for each of the events. Hensley was second among the 16 contestants in the long jump (17-4), javelin throw (97-00) and 800-meter run (2:26.9), and tied for second in the 100 hurdles (15.54). She was third in the 200-meter dash (26.11) and fifth in the shot put (26-10.5).
The high jump, her best event and one she won at the conference and East Regional meets during the school season, was the second of four events held on Tuesday. She read a novel (The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner) between jumps to help stay calm.
It took her three attempts to clear the bar at 5-7, but she accomplished the 5-8.75 jump on the first try. Later, she almost made it over at 5-11 but clipped the bar with a heel.
“The high jump was fantastic,” Carter said on Friday while still in Sacramento. “She was right on, and it got her off to a good start.”
After a strong effort by Harrell in the shot put, Hensley went into the second day in second place, trailing by 99 points.
“She was very fun to compete with and very talented,” Hensley said of Harrell.
The daughter of Roger and Heather Hensley, of Seven Lakes, overtook Harrell by finishing in front of her in all three of the second-day events.
Roger Hensley, who is active in his daughter’s training, was at home getting updates from Carter via text messages.
“It was pretty much jump by jump and throw by throw,” he said. “I put on a lot of cell minutes, let me put it that way. I was pretty excited — you’re basic proud dad moment.”
Hensley had an outstanding freshman season for the Patriot track team. In addition to the school record in the high jump, she also set a new standard in the 400-meter run. She was the leading point scorer at the conference meet, winning the high jump, triple jump and 400 and finishing second in the triple jump. She was also the MVP of the state indoor meet held in February.
All of the Sandhills TC athletes qualified for the trip to California by finishing in the top three at a regional meet held at North Carolina A&T. Minott won the triple jump at the state high school indoor championships and took second in both the long jump and triple jump at the 3A state outdoor meet in May. He finished 14th in the triple jump in the young men’s division in Sacramento.
Deucher came in 14th in the 2,000-meter steeplechase, while Shaw was second in the triple jump.
Hensley was born in Raleigh about six months after her parents relocated from Los Angeles. A brother, Chuck, will be a freshman at Pinecrest. She became a member of Sandhills TC about four years ago.
Carter, who is also the track and cross country coach at Union Pines, feels that by developing more upper body strength, she can become more competitive in the shot put and javelin.
Hensley finished ninth at the 2009 Junior Olympics held in Greensboro with 3,903 points, including a 4-11 result in the high jump.
“I would not be where I am without my coach and my dad,” she said. “I personally believe you can’t get too cocky. Once you think you are the best is when people pass you.”
Asked if there was anything else she wanted to talk about from the experience, it was as if the words were on the tip of her tongue.
“I know God gave me this talent,” she said. “And in one shape or form, I know that what I do with it is going to be for him.”
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