For The Yukon Review
Rena Henson had one goal heading into the COAC Conference Championships. The Yukon runner just wanted to leave with a medal.
To do that, Henson would need to place in the top 20. Which, judging by most of her first season with the Millers, wasn’t guaranteed.
However, when the varsity girls’ race was over, Henson not only had placed, she was just outside the top 10. Her time of 20:20 was good enough for 12th place.
“I think I ran pretty good,” Henson said. “I pushed myself through the whole race. It hurt pretty bad to run, but I pushed all the way through. You’re supposed to push yourself through the pain, so that’s what I did.”
But the pain went away as she put the conference medal around her neck.
“It’s just a complete accomplishment because that’s all I was hoping for was to just get a medal at conference,” Henson said.
Yukon coach Rodney Zimmerman was also impressed with the way Henson performed on a stage like conference championships.
“She ran great. She just keeps getting better and better as the year goes by,” Zimmerman said. “Great kid, great attitude, really great for this sport. I mean, she’s really made to do this, and I think that’s starting to be seen as we go through the season.”
A month ago, the idea of placing at conference may not have seemed feasible for Henson. She had yet to really find her varsity legs.
For Henson, that moment came two weeks ago in back-to-back races that have seemed to propel her to where she is now.
“Well, this one meet I was doing pretty bad, and I didn’t medal,” Henson said. “And then the next meet after that I pushed myself all the way through. My coaches were just encouraging me through the entire race, and I did better that race.”
The race where Henson pushed herself was the Southwest Christian Invite. She took second behind her teammate Avery Stanley after running a 20:28.
Henson wants to keep pushing herself and her team as they head into regionals and an eye on the state meet.
“Yukon has never gotten third in a conference race,” Henson said. “I think this group of girls is going to do really good this year.”
Zimmerman says Henson can have a strong end to the season.
“I think she’s one of those girls. I think she’s capable of hitting some 19s,” Zimmerman said. “We may not see it this year, but I’d like to see her shooting for that.”
Now the focus turns to qualifying for the state meet.
“I think we’re looking at qualifying to State as a team next week, which we were short of last year. I think that’s going to be positive. Then, we’re just going to want to go out, and have really good, solid competitive races at the State. That’s what we’re looking for. Just finish out strong,” the coach said.