One last hurdle to clear
At this time last year Janell Griffin came streaking into the NCHSAA 3-A state championship track and field meet fresh off of a strong indoor season with dreams of capturing gold, along with the eyes of college recruiters, as she prepared to compete in the 100-meter hurdles.
After soaring through the Coastal Conference meet and the East Regional, the junior from Washington lined up for the prelims at N.C. A&T University, the host site of the state meet, but like a 757 with ice on its wings, her quest for gold never got off the ground as Griffin tripped on a hurdle and would not advance to the next round of competition. Just like that, a year’s worth of hard work and preparation came to an end faster than you can say Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
“It was bad, I was very upset,” Griffin said. “I thought I was going to be able to hear from certain colleges and stuff like that but since I didn’t finish I didn’t hear that much from colleges.”
Washington track and field coach Jon Blank was heartbroken.
“I felt so bad for her because getting to work with her every day and getting to see the focus and the growth … She had come so far,” Blank said. “To fall down — and it was near the end of the race — It was a sad moment.”
It’s not very often an athlete is afforded a do-over, but today Griffin will get what amounts to a real life Tosh.O Wed Redemption as the senior has overcome last year’s demons to make it back to the state championship meet in the 100-meter hurdles.
“I want to do good,” Griffin said. “I want to succeed this time.”
In sports true bliss tends to come with a price tag on it. Right now, Griffin’s credit card is maxed out and she is ready to enjoy her purchase. The senior, who also participated in the 100-meter dash and ran on the 4×100 and 4×200-meter relay teams, has competed with a newfound focus that has allowed her to place second in both the conference meet and the regionals. Last year’s experience has made her mentally tougher and Blank said that it will pay off today.
“I know she is going to finish the race this time,” Blank said. “She’s had a great season. Mentally she has grown and her focus is so much better and I don’t think she will go out and be as nervous as she was last year. That experience last year definitely contributed to her success this year.
“I see her making it to the finals and I see her finishing in the top three. She has a great chance to go out there and get a medal in her last track meet.”
Blank said the key for Griffin lies in her ability to muscle out the memory of last season while relying on the muscle memory she has built up this season.
“The biggest thing is to not put so much pressure on herself and to just go out and run like she has every single time this year,” Blank said. “If you treat the big races like the normal races and you’re successful in the normal races than I think that’s the recipe for success.
“Everybody is fast at the state championship meet but it’s all about the mental part of it. Who can handle the pressure the best and who can finish and use the technique they used all year long.”