Salt Fork's Kimbro fashions top times

Salt Fork's Kimbro fashions top times

CHARLESTON — At the track, Jenny Kimbro is quick to finish.

Away from competition, Kimbro is quick to start. Idle time is not her friend.

“I have to do something so I don’t get nervous,” the sophomore said.

Kimbro showed up at the Class 1A girls’ state track meet at Eastern Illinois University on Thursday with painted nails. Each finger on one hand was a different color. The comparable finger on the other hand was the same color.

“It’s a routine I have,” Kimbro said. “Before sectionals, they were all blue with sparkles.”

When she returns to EIU on Saturday for the finals as the top-ranked entry in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles, she’ll have a different look.

“I have to change it up,” Kimbro said. “I paint my nails before every meet.”

There’s no need to change up what she did after the starter’s pistol sounded, although following the prelims in the 100 hurdles she said, “I could have had a better start.”

She established herself as the clear favorite in both races.

Kimbro’s qualifying time in the 100 hurdles was 14.60 seconds. She is more than three-fourths of a second ahead of her closest pursuer.

In the 300 hurdles, Kimbro was timed in 44.60, just off her school-record time of 44.57. None of the state’s other 29 competitors in the event were within a half-second of her.

The school-record time in the sprint-hurdle race is the best by a small-school area athlete and ties Kimbro for fourth on the all-time Area Honor Roll.

“I don’t know where that came from,” she said. “It felt pretty good, but I didn’t know it was that fast.”

Her previous best time was 14.95.

She would like to believe better times are in her future, but said, “I hope I can get better, but I don’t know how likely it is.”

Friday is an off day for Class 1A athletes while 2A and 3A competitors try to secure a berth in the 42nd annual finals at O’Brien Stadium. Kimbro won’t rest, though.

“I’ll be going over some hurdles,” she said. “We’ll have practice.”

She’ll have plenty of familiar faces to hang out with between events Saturday. Teammate Abby Nicholson — who also broke a school record Thursday — advanced in the shot put and discus. Freshman Katie Witte, who was seeded 19th in the discus, secured the 12th and final qualifying spot.

“I can’t think of the last time we had this many girls in this many events in the finals,” Salt Fork coach Gail Biggerstaff said.

Nicholson is ranked fourth in the discus (123 feet, 9 inches) after shattering the program record held by the daughter of Salt Fork throws coach Herb Wilkins. In 2008, Hannah Wilkins had a toss of 122-11.

“Abby has been working so hard and is so focused, I’m not surprised,” Biggerstaff said.

Witte’s personal best of 112-7 in the discus allowed her to extend the season another two days. Nicholson is seeded ninth in the shot put (37-10) after the first round.

Spectators weren’t the only ones impressed by Kimbro’s dominance in the heat races.

“I am amazed,” Biggerstaff said. “Every time she steps on the track, she is so concentrated, yet she is the sweetest and most humblest girl. I’m excited to see what she will do on Saturday.”

Three stars

She didn’t get her day started off on the right foot. In the long jump, her best was “the worst I’ve done all year,” she said (14 feet, 5 inches), but she outstepped everyone in two hurdles races to post the day’s top qualifying times.

Sense a pattern here? After missing a finals berth in the 100 meters by one position and 0.03 second, the senior was among the leading qualifiers in the 300-meter hurdles and the 200-meter dash. She is rated third in the hurdles.

An all-state runner in cross-country last fall at a 3-mile distance, the freshman demonstrated her running versatility, advancing to the finals in the 800 meters (as the fifth seed) and in the 1,600 meters (as the 11th seed).