PENDLETON — For Pendleton High School’s Sam Jennings, the track and field season doesn’t end with the Bucks.
On Tuesday evening the incoming Pendleton sophomore, along with friends, family and teammates, could be seen washing cars to raise money for his upcoming trip to Sacramento, California, to compete in the USATF Hershey National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships on Sunday. He’ll throw the javelin — an event in which he’s ranked fourth in the nation.
“I’m expecting high results,” said Jennings, 15. “I’ve been working my butt off at practice. It should pan out.”
So far, the practice has paid off. For his freshman year on the varsity track and field team, Jennings placed fourth in the javelin at the 5A State Championships in May. He threw 181 feet, 7 inches — just over 5 feet short of the 186-10 school record, which was set by Geoff Herd back in 2009.
“Sam is super focused in his event,” said Pendleton hurdling instructor and Rising Phoenix Track Club coach Ben Bradley. “For his age, he’s great. He studies, and is always asking questions to perfect his technique.”
Jennings is so dedicated to his craft that he braved the 95-degree summer heat to wash any car that came his way in order to meet his $500 goal for the trip. The money would help cover gas for the 13-hour drive down to Sacramento, as well as hotel expenses.
Jennings’ path to the finals began after he made the top eight at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic state meet, as well as the top five in regionals, where he finished at first place with a 160-foot distance.
“It’s been the best I could have asked for,” Jennings said of his first year as a high school track athlete. “I started out throwing 104 feet, and ended (the season) throwing 180.”
Not only is he the lone Buckaroo competing in the Junior Olympics, but he’s also representing the entire state of Oregon. He noted that every other athlete in his division is aged 16, which means they’ll have an extra year of athletic experience going into the competition.
“I’m so nervous,” Jennings said. “I’m going to be one of the younger people there. I’m the only 15-year-old in the bracket. Playing with the big dogs is going to be fun.”
Bradley said he provides the opportunity for his athletes to compete in the Junior Olympics every year, and that Jennings was eager to take on the challenge.
“He was all about it,” Bradley said. “He’s ready for any chance to compete. We’ve had several teammates come out for it since their freshman year. They spread the word. (Jennings) was excited to hear about it.”
Jennings is in for a long week. After Tuesday’s car wash, he and his family hit the road to Sacramento. The finals commence on Sunday morning. The javelin event is scheduled for 8 a.m. at Hornet Stadium.