Warren Central’s Henderson wins Class 6A high jump championship

Published 6:41 pm Saturday, May 6, 2023

PEARL — When the high school track and field postseason began, Jonathan Henderson wasn’t sure how far he’d make it. The Warren Central high jumper fought through an abdominal strain that limited his goals in the division and regional meets.

By the time Mississippi’s best athletes gathered for the MHSAA state meet on Saturday, he was feeling fine. And after he’d competed, he was on top of the world ­— and the podium.

Henderson, a junior, jumped 6 feet, 8 inches to win the Class 6A boys’ high jump championship. He edged out Grenada’s Kelton Jones on a tiebreaker to win his first state title.

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“It’s really a comeback story, because I was hurt the first two weeks. I didn’t even know if I was going to jump at South State,” Henderson said, “To come out here and win it, it’s unreal. I can’t even express the emotion right now. I should’ve gotten 6-10 and not won on a tiebreaker, but I’ll take it however it comes. I’m blessed.”

Henderson jumped 6-10 earlier this season, and 6-6 in two other meets. He suffered an injury just before the postseason, however, and cleared 5-8 and 6-0 while struggling just to qualify at the division and regional meets.

“I had an abdominal strain on the right side of my hip. It made it really hard to bend my back and to jump. The first two weeks I was just trying to get through to qualify,” said Henderson, who also finished fifth at last year’s state meet. “I was jumping one time to see if I could qualify. In regionals it worked, but in district I had to jump twice and it put more strain on me. I’m really blessed to be where I’m at right now.”

Just before the South State meet he started feeling better in what he called “a miracle.” He matched his season high of 6-10 and finished first, and carried the momentum right on through the state meet.

“Two days before South State I got completely healed. It was a miracle,” Henderson said. “It was hurting the day before. It was hurting to get out of bed. Then I came out here a day later and was jumping 6-6.”

Henderson needed every bit of spring in his legs to beat Jones. The Grenada junior also finished at 6-8, but missed more attempts on the way to it than Henderson did.

“I underestimated him. I didn’t think he was going to get second. I thought one of the Clinton boys was going to get second because that’s who won state the last two years, Tyler Nichols,” Henderson said. Nichols finished third after going out at 6-6. “I was waiting on him to mess up, so when he messed up I got excited. But I knew I still had business to handle.”

With one gold medal around his neck, it didn’t take Henderson long to start thinking about making it a set. He’ll be back next year to try for a repeat — and more. The state record of 7-2 1/4 is a goal as well.

“Next year, for sure, I’m going to be flying over 7 feet. I’m going to try to do it consistently. I’m going to put in the work, the weight room work, my body’s going to grow more — I’m only 17, so the older I get the stronger I’m going to get,” he said. “I’m coming out here to break the record next year.”

Henderson’s state championship was the biggest highlight of Warren Central’s day at the state meet, although it did add one more medal in the girls’ 4×200 meter relay. The squad of Alexis Jefferies, Ka’ryn Lewis, Adria Burrell and Arielle Ward finished third with a time of 1 minute, 42.70 seconds.

Clinton won the 4×200 in 1:39.96, and Pearl was second in 1:41.76.

Warren Central had four individual athletes competing in the girls’ meet, but none of them were able to claim a medal.

Burrell, a sophomore, finished fifth in the girls’ 100 meters, with a time of 12.43 seconds. Brandon’s Addison McLaurin beat Clinton’s Zharia Bonner for the state title, in a dead heat at 12.07 seconds. Germantown’s Ashlyn Robinson finished third in 12.23 seconds. All eight runners in the 100 meters finished within .9 seconds of each other.

High jumper Jae’la Smith finished fourth, with a height of 5 feet even. She lost a tiebreaker with Ocean Springs’ Carmela Coulter for the bronze medal.

Gulfport’s Micha Odell cleared 5-2 and beat Southaven’s Kaylee Spencer on a tiebreaker for the Class 6A title.

“I didn’t do right. I kept overthinking about my jumping. But next year I’m winning,” Smith said. “When I was jumping, my butt kept hitting the pole. I’ve just got to practice.”

The Lady Vikes had two athletes in the girls’ shot put. Freshman Arionna Jenkins finished sixth, with a throw of 34 feet, and junior Calise Henyard was eighth at 30 feet, 1 1/2 inch.

The two Warren Central throwers, however, were playing for second place along with everyone else. Clinton senior Meagan Womack broke a 25-year-old overall state record to win with a throw of 45-4 1/2.

Wingfield’s Sharon Davis had held the record of 45-3 1/4 since 1997. The Class 6A record of 44-2 1/2, set in 1990 by Tracy Knight of Hattiesburg, also fell.

“It’s pretty great,” Womack said. “It’s been my goal to get it this year. I didn’t want to be one of those people who got to a certain point and just stayed close to where they were, so I had to break it.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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