FALLS CITY — Falls City sophomore Madelyn Hendrickson will take to the track this weekend, fighting for a trip to the 1A state track meet later this month.
Hendrickson enters the Special District 1 championships ranked third in the 100-meter hurdles and second in the long jump.
That she’s in this position at all is a testament to just how far she’s come since her freshman year.
There was just something about the hurdles that drew Hendrickson in.
“When I was in fifth grade, during my first day of track practice I kept looking at the hurdles,” she said. “Coach asked me if I wanted to try them out. I fell in love with it.”
When she entered her freshman year, she was ready to do some big things on the track.
“I thought, ‘I’ve done hurdles forever. I can be a one-man wolf pack,’” Hendrickson said.
She would soon find out just how wrong she was.
The trouble started when, for the first time, her hurdles race didn’t go as smoothly as planned.
“Last year, I tripped on a hurdle for the first time,” Hendrickson said. “I came pretty close to falling.”
She was able to avoid taking a spill and finished the race, but her confidence was gone.
“After that (race), mentally, I couldn’t do it,” Hendrickson said.
A number of medical issues began to take its toll on her physically. What she hoped would be a promising freshman year turned into a nightmare.
“My strength that I could possibly have had last year wasn’t cutting it,” she said.
She entered this spring with a clean bill of health, but one thing still lacked — confidence.
“I thought my hurdles were toast because I couldn’t even get over them last year,” Hendrickson said.
As she prepared for the Mountaineers’ season-opening meet, she was warming up for the 100 hurdles when she nearly tripped again.
“I thought, ‘not again,’” she said. “My friends and coaches kept telling me they believed in me. I just thought I’m going to go through with this, and I did. I ended up taking first in my heat that race.”
Since then, she’s become one of the district’s top hurdlers — discovering that a big part of her success was letting others — including freshman Phoenix Brown — support her.
“You have to have buddies to push you,” Hendrickson said. “If you don’t have anyone to push and support you, you won’t be as successful.”
As Hendrickson regained her form on the track, she also gave long jump a try — even if it took a little convincing.
“I was terrified to do it because I’ve seen two long jump accidents in my life,” she said.
Turns out, she was a natural, setting the school record (15 feet, 3 ¾ inches) in just her second time jumping.
Hendrickson began the season hoping to regain some of her pre-high school magic. This weekend, she has a chance to do that.
“I’m super excited that I’m even close to making state,” she said. “If I make it to state, I know I’m going to be real jittery, but I think I’ll do OK. It would be really exciting, especially since I’m only a sophomore.”
Hendrickson isn’t the only state hopeful the Mountaineers have.
Senior thrower Ryan Macnab is seeded second in the shot put and fourth in the discus.
Sophomore Jeremy Labrado is ranked third in the high jump and Robert Kempfer is seeded fourth in the triple jump.
For the girls, freshman Rachel Beatty is seeded first in the triple jump.
Senior thrower Brittany Varney is ranked third in the shot put and discus.
With a mix of experienced and young athletes hoping to make their presence felt, Mountaineers coach Ronnie Simmons said he’s excited to see who can rise to the occasion and learn what it will take for them to join the state’s elite.
“They have a lot of natural athleticism,” Simmons said. “I think they need to develop a stronger work ethic. Sometimes, having failure might be the best motivator and they can see what it takes to get to the next level.”