MOUNT VERNON — For Mount Vernon High School runners Danae Rockwell, Jhazmyn Anderson and Sarah Baker, the best is yet to come.
This trio of girls may have a surprise or two in store for the competition in Columbus at this weekend’s Division I State Track and Field Championships at Jeese Owens Stadium.
Rockwell, Mount Vernon’s senior 100-meter hurdler, put on a tremendous show to overcome a tough start in last weekend’s regional final. She is now about to put her skills to the test against the state’s elite as the fifth fastest in her heat. Her goal is very clear.
“I have to beat at least one person to make the final,” said Rockwell. “That’s what I’m focused on.”
A good start would likely make that happen. In fact, it might land her a spot on the podium.
“I probably lost a half second to a full second,” said Rockwell of the regionals. “If I had a good start last week, I would have probably been seeded as No.2 in the state meet in my heat. It made a huge difference.”
Rockwell’s dedication and skill, and that of her teammates, are the things that got them to this level.
“Last summer, I ran everyday,” said Rockwell. “I lifted four times a week. I went to some AAU meets, a Junior Olympics meet and the Nike National Meet. I went to meets throughout the summer. I trained harder last summer than I ever trained before. This track season, I just put it all together.”
There’s no telling what Rockwell and fellow senior Anderson will do in the final meet of their high school careers.
Anderson, who cruised to a fourth-place finish in the regional to get a state berth in the 400-meter run, continues to improve.
“It’s actually been a real good year for me,” said Anderson, who started out the season running the 400 around 58 seconds. “My times kept dropping as the year went on. At districts, I ran a 57.4, at regionals, I ran a 57.2, so hopefully my time will continue dropping.”
Anderson looked like she had something left in the tank at the end of the 400 finals last weekend. As a strong finisher, the senior’s goal of a sub-57 quarter mile could be well within her grasp.
“That would be awesome,” said Anderson. “I hope so. That’s what I am going for.”
Baker, a junior, already has an All-Ohio honor under her belt. She mounted the podium in November at the State Cross Country Championships. She would like to step up on the podium again in the 3,200-meter run.
Her advice to get through a state tournament is simple.
“You can’t lose your head or be distracted by the big crowds,” said Baker. “You have to have the same focus that you have had all year.”
This time, she goes to the state with friends.
“You feel better when more of your teammates are with you,” said Baker.
The 3,200-meter run is a bit shorter and a little more intense than cross country.
“The workouts are a little faster,” said Baker who also runs indoor track during the winter.
Baker, who expects to finish strong and has a good shot at standing on the podum, could even surpass her own expectations this week.
“Maybe,” said Baker. “I’m hoping I can drop my time more by this weekend.”
Her strategy for running, like that for keeping her focus, is very simple.
“I tend to run the same pace the whole time,” said Baker. “If I can go the first mile and stay ahead then make my move with four laps to go, then, girls with good kicks can’t get me.”
This unusual threesome showcases the broad talent of the athletes and coaches of Mount Vernon track team.
“The fact that they run in very different events says a lot about the girls working hard,” said Mount Vernon girls coach Pay Gray. “It says a lot about what good coaching staff we have as well. A lot of schools focus in on one area. They qualify a lot in field, distance or sprint events. We were able to get one from each area (including Mount Vernon boys team hurler Lucas Ferguson, who qualified in the shot put and discus.) I think it says a lot about the talent here in Mount Vernon.”
Talent like that is bound to surprise a few people.