Going the distance

Shannon Dutcher photo BPHS senior Colby Jenks, No. 708, outpaces the competition in the 800-meter finals at the State Indoor Track Championships in Gillette on March 4. Jenks broke the state’s all-class indoor track record in the event and captured gold in the finals to earn 3A All-State honors.

Jenks earns All-State honors and breaks state indoor record

BIG PINEY – Big Piney High School senior Colby Jenks stepped up to the starting line for the boys’ varsity 800-meter finals at the 2023 State Indoor Track Championships in Gillette on Saturday, March 4.

In less than 2 minutes, Jenks captured gold in the event, broke a state record and garnered 3A indoor track All-State honors.

The starting gun sounded and the racers lunged forward. Jenks angled for a good position near the front of the pack.

“My strategy is always the same for each race,” he said. “I try to get out really fast and stay up front and then basically kick the last 200 meters, going as fast as my legs can carry me.”

Fifty meters into the race, Jenks found himself several strides ahead of the competition.

“I was kind of on my own from that point,” Jenks said.

The race then boiled down to a contest pitting Jenks against the clock.

“I kind of zone out the first two laps,” said Jenks. “By the third lap, I can start getting in my head, thinking about the race and doubting myself for a moment.”

An official called out Jenks’ split time as he approached the straightaway in the third lap.

“When I came into that third lap, I was feeling pretty tired,” Jenks said. “My third lap is always a bit slow compared to the other laps because it’s my hang on and survive lap. I came in a bit behind the time I wanted.”

In spite of the pain and fatigue, Jenks dug deep, pushed the negative thoughts aside, and kicked it in.

“I had to concentrate on thoughts like, ‘I want this. I want to get this time. I want to do better,’” Jenks remarked. “On the fourth lap, I focused on keeping my arms moving, my legs churning.”

Jenks flew across the finish line.

“I looked at the time and it said 1:53, so I was pretty stoked,” Jenks said.

As Jenks struggled to catch his breath, the realization hit that he had shattered Wyoming’s all-class state indoor track record in the 800-meters set in 2013 by Rock Springs’ Ricky Faure.

Jenks clocked in at 1 minute, 53.92 seconds, a third of a second faster than Faure’s time of 1:54.25.

A sense of relief settled over Jenks.

“It was a really good feeling,” he said. “I was pretty happy – I even gave a little shout when I finished the 800. But within 5 to 10 seconds, I was lying on the ground. I was a bit tired. It’s pretty taxing.”

Jenks also snagged fourth place in the 400-meter finals at State, posting a time of 51.87 seconds. He got back up after breaking a state record to bag fourth place in the 1600-meter finals at 4:37.72.

Exceptional work ethic

At Jenks’ level of competition, shaving a single second off a personal record involves a significant amount of effort.

Jenks earned All-State honors as a junior the previous year in outdoor track and in cross-country this fall while competing for Jackson Hole High School.

Preparing to run 800 meters on an indoor track involves a different training regimen. Jenks devotes more time to speed drills while reducing his mileage from the cross-country season.

“The training philosophy changes from outdoor to indoor track,” Jenks said. “I focus on working at my hardest and then taking a limited break, and working my hardest again. The speed intervals reduce the time it takes me to recover and it also increases my fitness level a lot. Those workouts, they hurt. But they make me so much better.”

There are no secret formulas to dropping time, according to Jenks. Success is the result of blood, sweat and tears.

“Whenever I can, I push myself to my limits,” Jenks said. “The work I put in is what ultimately shaves down that time.”

Jenks credits his parents for instilling in him a strong work ethic on the track and in the classroom. His coaches also taught him the value of putting in the extra effort.

“When my coaches push me hard, I try my best not to complain,” Jenks said. “I’ve gotten better with that over the years. If my coaches give me a hard workout, I just shut my mouth and get to work. I want to set an example for those coming behind me, too.”

Jenks began running competitively in middle school, where his coach insisted the young athlete would make a strong mile runner. Jenks hesitated at first, concentrating on shorter events like the 400-meter and the hurdles.

In high school, Jenks went out for cross-country and found success running longer distances in outdoor track. He refocused his attention on the 800-meter.

“With cross-country, I found I could run distance fairly well,” he said. “I shifted from the 400-meter realizing that maybe I wasn’t the best sprinter. My sophomore year, I started running the 800 and became pretty good at it.”

Jenks won the 2A outdoor track state championship in the 800-meters both his sophomore and junior years. At the 2022 State Track and Field Championships in Casper, Jenks captured gold in the 800-meters, coming in under 2 minutes at 1:55.59. He not only set a new personal record, but broke the 2A class record in the event.

A whirlwind season

The high school indoor track season began in January. Winter weather wreaked havoc on travel plans across the state throughout the 2023 season, forcing the cancelation of several indoor track meets.

The team did manage to compete at the 2023 Simplot Games at Idaho State University (ISU) in Pocatello, the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Approximately 2,200 athletes converged at ISU’s Holt Arena, representing schools from across the United States, Canada and Australia.

Jenks beat 125 other runners to take second place in the 800-meter preliminaries on Feb. 17. He advanced to the finals on Feb. 18, where he squared off against the best runners from places as far afield as Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

“My goal was to try my best and go out there and have fun,” Jenks said. “There was one other kid that ran the same time as me. I kind of had that in the back of my mind, but I tried not to focus on that too much. I don’t like looking at times before races, because it can make me a nervous wreck.”

Once again, Jenks shut out any negative thoughts and drew his attention to the task at hand. Jenks won the 800-meter finals at the Simplot, setting his personal record of 1:53.55.

“Simplot was one of the biggest highlights of the season,” he said. “It was super cool that I got the opportunity to win that.”

Jenks is already setting his sights on dropping time in the 800- and 1600-meter events during his 2023 high school outdoor season with the Punchers.

Jenks signed to run track at Weber State University (WSU), where he will attend after completing a church mission. The events Jenks will compete in are to be determined. The 800-meter remains a strong possibility.

“I don’t think my (WSU) coach was expecting me to run the 800 I’ve been running,” Jenks said. “He set a goal for me for the (high school) outdoor season to get a 1:53 in the 800. I hit that during the indoor season.”

Jenks thanked Big Piney High School’s volunteer indoor track coaches McKenzie Sullivan and Jess Nugent.

“They are amazing coaches,” he said.

Jenks also expressed gratitude to his parents.

“My parents have been so supportive,” he added. “They’ve tried to go to all of my meets even though they were so far.”

Jenks gave a shoutout to his competitors for pushing him to succeed.

“There have been some amazing runners and amazing times this season,” he said.

Lastly, Jenks thanked his BPHS indoor track teammates for making the season “fun.”