PENDLETON — Sam Jennings did not burst onto the high school track scene leaving opponents in his wake. It took a good four months for that to happen.
As a freshman at Pendleton High School, Jennings debuted for the Bucks at their intrasquad meet March 21. He threw the javelin 77 feet, 6 inches.
Jennings unleashed a throw of 173-1 on Sunday to place fourth in the 15-16 age division at the USATF National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships in Sacramento.
“It was pretty cool,” Jennings said of the experience. “I have thrown against the top three before, so we have a friendship.”
Dash Sirmon of Walla Walla won the event with a toss of 188-5.
Jennings qualified for the event with a personal best throw of 182-8½ at the Region 13 Championships the first week of July at Mt. Tahoma High School in Tacoma.
Jennings’ top throw was his first of the competition.
“I don’t know what was wrong,” he said. “It was an off day. One day you hit your PR, the other you are lucky to get what I got. I will have plenty of chances to compete against Dash.”
Ben Bradley, who helps coach Jennings, watched the live stream of the competition.
“He had couple of good throws, but not his best,” Bradley said. “He finished where he was ranked going in. It’s impressive to come out at the end of the season with a 182, and being consistent between 170-175. He has such a bright future.”
Jennings made a big splash at the 5A State Track and Field Championships in May, placing fourth with a toss of 181-7 inches at Mt. Hood Community College.
The Pendleton school record is 186-10, set by Geoff Herd in 2009.
“We were teammates in high school,” Bradley said of Herd. “He was impressive, but I think Sam will take that record down next season.”
That is the plan.
“I had no idea I would be so close to breaking the school record my first season,” Jennings said. “That is my goal for next year.”
He’d also like to go up against the top throwers in the Northwest at the Nike/Jesuit Twilight Relays. He had an invite this spring, but was not able to go.
“I want to go and compete against the 6A schools,” he said. “The best throwers are there.”
Central Catholic’s Joseph Nizich won the Nike/Jesuit title in May with a toss of 203-11. He later won the 6A state title with a throw of 206-3.