SPORTS>> No 3-peat for Jones
There will be a new state heptathlon champion this year for the first time since 2006. Two-time defending winner Whitney Jones of Searcy will not compete in the event at Cabot High School today and Thursday due to a leg injury.
Jones was planning on defending her crown as recently as last week, and was still listed on the Arkansas Activities Association’s entry sheet for the event when it was released on Tuesday.
Jones, who sustained a hamstring injury at the Panther meet earlier this spring, was forced to miss the 6A-East Conference meet, the state meet and last week’s Meet of Champs due to her injury.
“It’s a big disappointment; it’s sad, really,” Searcy track coach Charlie Carroll said. “But it happens. It seems like it happens to somebody almost every season, you just hope that it doesn’t happen to any of your kids.”
It has been an amazing run for Jones, since stunning the state during her sophomore season with a runaway win in the heptathlon. She scored 4,969 points on her way to winning that year, and backed it up last year with 4,885 points.
She won the long jump and 200-meter run on her way to her second straight heptathlon win in ’07 after setting the state triple jump record the same year with a 39-0.25 mark.
Entering her senior year of high school track with a scholarship to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville already in hand before the spring, expectations for Jones were understandably high.
After shocking the state with her heptathlon win as a sophomore, and a record-breaking junior year, Jones’ injury-plagued senior season has made for a disappointing ending to one of the most distinguished local high school track and field careers in quite some time.
Jones’ absence puts Pine Bluff senior Kanesha Hicks at the top of the favorites list. Hicks finished a distant second to Jones last year, but has projected herself to break the 5,000 point barrier this year.
The loss of Jones is a big blow to the Lady Lions, but all is not lost with sophomore Kristen Celsor and junior Shalisha Anthony in the show.
Celsor is coming off a big win in the high jump at the Meet of Champs last week. For Anthony, it will be her second trip to the event.
Last year, she finished 30th with 2,655 points, but Carroll looks for her to be higher up the charts on Thursday.
“We look for Kristen to have avery good day Thursday,” Carroll said. “Shalisha was there last year, and we’re hoping that she’s learned to pace herself better this year. We’re hoping for her to approach her events stronger.
“I believe she will do a lot better than last year.”
Other local entries to the heptathlon will be Beebe’s Taylor Brock and Alison Embrey, along with Cabot Lady Panther competitors Emily Carpenter and Marissa De La Paz.
It will be the first heptathlon for all four, as Beebe’s Taylor closes out her career for the Lady Badgers, while Lamar signee Carpenter takes part in her final high-school event for Cabot.
The Panthers have a pair of competitors with decathlon experience on the boys side. Senior Jared Santiago and junior Drew Burks will return to the event this year.
Burks finished mid-pack last year with 5,265 points, good enough for 23rd of the 44 competitors on hand. Santiago finished 35th last year with 4,280 points.