By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports
It is not exactly common for a collegiate signing day to become emotional for a student-athlete. In fact, it’s quite rare — as in almost never.
Parents? Sure. They typically tuck away a few kleenexes and shed a few happy tears while sitting quietly in the crowd. But rarely do the athletes realize just how monumental it is to sign those few slips of paper.
The day is designed to be a celebration.
Luckily, we all celebrate just a little differently, which made Friday inside the library at Life Waxahachie High School a day that track star Kayla Jenkins, her family and the room full of loving supporters will not soon forget.
Following a few strokes of a pen, Jenkins is officially college-bound on a track scholarship at Texas Southern University, a Division-I program in Houston that competes in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. She is coming off of a junior season that saw her finish third and fourth in 300-meter and 100-meter hurdles, respectively, at the 4A state track-and-field championships held at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin.
Those efforts also helped the Lady Mustangs secure a place on the podium for the first time in program history, as they ultimately finished third in the state. The group lost just one senior to graduation and will look to improve upon that finish later this spring.
When asked before the signing if the milestone — which makes her the first student-athlete in Life Waxahachie history to sign during the early national signing period — took any pressure off ahead of her senior season, Jenkins countered.
“It takes a little bit (of pressure) off because I have the scholarship but now I have the reputation so I have to keep running and doing my part,” she explained. “[…] I just know that I have to work harder because in college I’ll have to work harder. I can’t stop now. I have to keep going.”
She added, “I’m really excited and I have been waiting all day to sign the papers. This is a big step in my life and is something that I have been working toward for all four years of my high school career.”
But, that was all spoken before the ceremony. And before the true impact of the day, feat and life milestone set in.
As head track coach Lyle Linscomb began his speech to open the ceremony, Jenkins attempted to stare down at the table in front of her and hide her face from her teammates and classmates as if shielding the sun pre-race while looking toward the finish line.
Her two hands across the brow were not nearly enough to hide the happy tears that soon overcame her.
Linscomb spoke briefly about the work ethic and leadership Jenkins displays each and every day she steps onto the track. He recalled that when she joined the Lady Mustangs as a freshman, she was not necessarily the most talented of what has become quite a solid core group of sprinters. She was, however, the lone hurdler, which allowed her to grow into the runner she has become.
“I don’t know that words are adequate,” Linscomb told KBEC Sports before the signing. “[…] She has worked, and worked, and worked and just blossomed and continued to get better. The culmination, hopefully, isn’t even here yet. That will hopefully happen in May (at the state championships). I am very proud of her. It’s big for her. It’s big for her family and it’s going to be a good shot in the arm for the program.”
The waterworks were not quite ready to shut off yet, either.
Evonne Jenkins, Kayla’s mother, then took her turn at the lectern and disclosed to the large gathering that her daughter has a large whiteboard at home where she writes down her track goals.
One of those goals was to sign with a four-year collegiate track program in November, which was accomplished Friday afternoon.
The second is one word: Gold.
The countdown to Austin and that goal is officially on.
“I’m most proud when you dig down deep, you give it your all and you leave it out there on the track,” said as she looked toward Kayla, who was again fighting back tears. “And that is what she does. I love her and I love our Life School family.”
All photos by Travis M. Smith/KBEC Sports
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith