By Kyle LoJacono
Wesley Chapel junior Courtney Prengaman won the Class 2A state high jump championship April 28 at Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville.
Prengaman cleared 5 feet 6 inches to claim the title, besting runner-up Jennie Carmody from Satellite by two inches. It is the first state championship in the program’s 12-year history, something that surprised the newly crowned champion.
“I didn’t know that,” Prengaman said. “I know that I’ll be — I didn’t know that. That’s cool. Alright, first one. I’m pretty stoked about being the first.”
The top-two jumpers got over 5-4 on their first try but scratched on all three attempts at 5-6. Both had an additional chance to clear the height before it would be moved down an inch.
Prengaman jumped first, cleared it and prayed the performance would be enough.
“I got down off the mat, laid on the ground and watched through the crack of my arm to see if she’d get it,” Prengaman said. “When I saw she’d hit it I stood up and couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for a long time.”
Prengaman began high jumping in seventh grade.
“My middle school coach had me do it because I was tall,” said the 6-foot-2 Prengaman. “I was actually terrified of it because it’s a scary thing.”
She started this season clearing 5-2, which was tied for the school record. Prengaman said her goal when the year began was to break that mark. Winning a state title wasn’t in her mind or the thoughts of first-year Wildcats girls coach Brad Allen.
“The first time she cleared 5-6, which was at conference, I think that was when I thought to myself she can take first place,” Allen said.
She cleared 5-7 to win a district crown, but jumped only 5-4 at regionals the week before states, losing to Carmody. Allen said they worked on technique in the week leading up to the finals along with building her confidence.
“The biggest thing is getting over the mental blocks,” Prengaman said. “My mind is the worst thing. I’m completely capable of jumping really high, but I will tell myself that I’m too tired or something hurts. I just take myself out of the competition on my own. … Today I won’t say I knew I could beat her, but I’d convinced myself I could beat her.”
Prengaman gave a lot of credit to Allen. She didn’t have a jumping coach before this season, but he decided to take on that role along with guiding the distance runners
“I didn’t know anything about high jump,” Allen said. “I bought books and DVDs and got on YouTube to learn everything I could about it. She was excited to have someone helping her. She did all the work.”
Prengaman added, “He had me doing strength training and jumping every day instead of falling asleep on the mat at practice like the last few years. We didn’t really slack off this year. I worked really hard, and it paid off.”
Allen said he is excited to get another year to work with Prengaman. He thinks she can jump 6 before she graduates.
“We’ve already set up what I’m going to be doing the next few months,” Prengaman said. “Lots of strength training, early morning practices and repetition to get me really strong so when the season starts next year I’m ready to go.”
Wesley Chapel earned a sprint medal thanks to senior Ravin Gilbert’s fifth-place performance in the 100-meter. The Georgia State University signee finished in 12.18 seconds, 0.39 behind the championship pace of Miami Jackson’s Robin Reynolds.