By RJ Walters / For the Jackson Citizen Patriot
Homer High School’s Nikki Wurster and Springport’s Erric Garner learned how difficult it is to defend state track and field titles Saturday.
But they have vastly different tales to tell about how those experiences turned out.
Garner was in danger of not qualifying for the long jump finals early Saturday morning. After scratching twice and barely locking up the ninth and final qualifying spot in the preliminaries, Garner showed he was capable of a solid finish with a jump of 20 feet, 1 1/4 inches.
But on his final jump of the season he showed the mental toughness he said is key to “the mind game” of long jumping, posting a career-best 21-5 1/2 to become the school’s first back-to-back state champion in track and field.
“I was very disappointed in myself, and at first I didn’t think I was going to make it. Then a kid jumped 21-4. I thought there was no way,” he said. “But I figured go big or go home, and I pushed it as hard as I could and got up as high as I could.”
He said this title is sweeter than the last because the competition was better and he was able to deliver by pushing the nerves aside.
Wurster was trying to defend titles in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs and was seeded first in the 800.
An injured foot and tough competition forced her to settle for a pair of all-state finishes.
Wurster said she aggravated some nerves between her toes in the 1,600, likely because her 4-year-old running shoes have little padding, and she just wasn’t at her best when it counted most.
She finished second in the 1,600 (5:07.89) and fifth in the 3,200 (11:45.79).
“I definitely felt pressure this time because (people) were like, ‘Defend your titles,’ ” she said. “And some girls run like 40 miles a week, while I run 10.”
Homer’s Blu Brodock placed fourth in the boys high jump at 6-4 and said he wants a state title in 2011.