Clayton cleared her hurdles, Jenkins jumped to new heights at Northside|Senior leader saved her best for last

Published 3:43 am Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Staff Writer

YEATESVILLE — Former Northside High School track star Ashley Clayton had been to three straight NCHSAA 1A state track and field meets, coming up just short of a medal in the 300-meter hurdles each year.
This season, Clayton earned a fourth-place finish at the state meet and that ever-elusive medal.
For that, she has been named the Daily News’ Female Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
“It's a pretty big accomplishment because it lets me know that my hard work paid off,” she said in regards to the honor.
Clayton ran hard for four years on the Northside Track and Field Team. She returned for the 2009 season, her senior season, as the only four-year track and field letter winner on the team.
For her accomplishments on and off the track, she was honored by the school as the Marine Athlete of the Year and Track and Field MVP.
Clayton felt she had the potential for a big senior season after placing fifth in the 300-meter hurdles at the 2008 NCHSAA 1A state track and field meet.
"My main goal this year was to receive a medal from states, because I worked really hard all four years and I ran at states all four years. I made it to the finals last year, but I was one spot away from getting a medal,” she said.
Clayton began her run at states with a championship in the 300-meter hurdles at the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s Class 1A eastern regional track and field meet in May, clocking in at 50.10 in the event.
She added a second-place finish in the triple jump, with a distance of 30 feet, and a third in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 18.0 seconds.
In her fourth return to states, Clayton was clocked at 48.14 in the 300-meter hurdles— the best finish in her four-year high school career.
Northside Track and Field coach Charlie Woolard beamed with pride when asked out his former senior captain.
“She’s been a very dedicated, determined young lady,” he said.
Clayton’s tenacity even earned her an Air Force ROTC scholarship at East Carolina University. She starts school at the university in the fall.
The 18-year-old from Sidney said she doesn’t plan to run competitively anymore, with college taking up most of her time.
Still, she’s proud of her accomplishments as a Panther, and appreciates the recognition from others.
"It's good to know that people think of me as a good athlete,” she said.
Newcomer became the talk of the school
YEATESVILLE — Everyone at Northside High School knew Kenneth Jenkins could jump.
The former Panthers basketball player had been showcasing his leaping abilities on the hardwood since his freshman year. But when basketball teammate Rashem Cooper suggested Jenkins join him on the Northside track and field team, no one knew what to expect.
What everyone got was a record-breaking high jumper with exceptional athletic ability. And what the Daily News got was its Male Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
"It's a big accomplishment, because I didn't do anything during the basketball season,” Jenkins said in regards to the honor.
In his first, and only, season with the team, Jenkins broke the school record for the high jump and took second-place in the event at the NCHSAA 1A state track and field meet. His best jump at the championship event was 6 feet 2 inches, but his highest recorded jump on the year was 6-6.
It didn’t take long for Jenkins to realize his potential in the high jump.
At the track and field team’s first meet of the year, Jenkins leaped to a second-place finish in the high jump event with a jump of 5-10.
"After the first meet, where I came in second, that kind of built my confidence to where I wanted to do it more,” he said.
Midway through the season, students, faculty and staff started to take notice to what Jenkins was doing on the field.
“The school really got excited about what he was able to accomplish in a short period of time,” said Northside Track and Field coach Charlie Woolard.
Although Jenkins appreciated the support, he said the pressure started to wear on him.
"In the middle of the season, I just got beat because I was in the newspaper and everybody kept talking to me about it,” he said.
But the track and field phenom continued to push towards his goal for a state championship in the high jump.
At the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1A regional meet, Jenkins bested the competition in the high jump with a leap of 6-4. He also took home a gold medal in the long jump with a distance of 20-1.
With an easy first-place finish in the high jump at regionals, Jenkins knew the Class-1A championship was in his sights.
To prepare for the state meet, he started working on his leg strength every day. The constant workouts proved to be his downfall at the championship, he said.
"I was working on (my legs) real hard and I didn't stretch right afterwards, so my legs got real tight and sore,” he said. “They stayed sore for the whole week until states came, and I was still sore then.”
With tight legs, Jenkins managed a jump of 6-2, two inches off the championship mark. But the pure athlete has no regrets.
“I know I would’ve won,” he said. “But I still feel good that I did it.”
Jenkins will be attending Beaufort Community College in the fall, and hopes to transfer to Pitt Community College to pursue his other passion — basketball.