Jessica Peters is used to pain. But Friday, the Steamboat Springs sophomore decided winning a state title was more important than possibly breaking her left foot.
For the past month, Peters has been practicing and competing with a stress fracture. While there is still a chance Peters could defend her 400-meter title in today's finals, it is unlikely because of her injury. She finished sixth in the preliminaries.
But the stress fracture didn't affect her as much in the high jump, partly because the event is less strenuous on the feet and partly because she decided it wasn't going to.
"I don't let things get to my head easy," Peters said.
Mental toughness is a trait Peters has embraced. If she lacked the mental fortitude to push through pain, she wouldn't have competed much this season for one reason or another and scratching before the state meet wasn't an option.
Still, Sailors coach Andy Reust gave Peters the option of taking second Friday. She declined.
Peters had to overcome not only her injury but fatigue after the high jump finals were interrupted by her 400-meter preliminary run. Peters and Lewis Palmer's Alexis Spiranac both cleared 5 feet, 7 inches as the time drew closer for Peters to go run her 400. When both failed in three attempts to clear 5-8, Peters thought she was done. She quickly switched her spikes and ran across the Jeffco Stadium infield to get into the blocks for her race. She found out when she returned to the high jump pit to get her shoes that she was not done -- unless she wanted to settle for second.
She missed at 5-8 and 5-7 in the jumpoff. So did Spiranac, allowing Peters to gain more confidence while she rested her legs. Peters cleared 5-6. Spiranac did not.
"I told her she didn't have to jump if she didn't want to," Reust said. "If she was tired and wanted to take second she could, but I told her not to regret anything. One good jump will win it. Don't have any regrets next week."
Instead of regrets, Peters has a championship medal, which she proudly can display with her 400-meter medal from last season. It's difficult to decide which one was more surprising.
Last season, she came to state and won the 400 behind raw talent and freshman naivete. She didn't know anything but winning in the event because she had never lost it. This season, she didn't compete in the high jump at every meet and hadn't jumped much in the past two weeks because of an illness, inclement weather and the injury. She wasn't the favorite. She wasn't picked to take second or third.
She responded by clearing 5-7, breaking her own school record of 5-5 that she cleared earlier this season at the Eagle Valley Invitational.
But Peters' state meet is not done. She is a member of Steamboat's 800-meter medley team that qualified for today's finals. Peters typically runs the 400, but Patricia Henderson and Peters have swapped legs, so Peters can run the 200 and Henderson can anchor.
Last year, the only way her season could have been better was if she had been on a relay team. If you ask Peters what event she focuses on and looks forward to she answers "the medley," without hesitation. This year, she is injured, but she is running for more than one.
"The medley has been my main focus," Peters said. "That's the one that matters to me. I knew I could go through the 200 in pain for my team. Today is the finals, and that's what you run for."
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org