CASPER – Big Piney junior Colby Jenks found himself in third place as he entered the final lap of the 1600-meter finals at the 2022 State Track Championships in Casper on Saturday, May 21.
A pair of Tongue River runners commanded the lead, but Jenks maintained his pace. Tongue River rounded the final corner, passing the 100-meter mark ahead of Jenks.
Jenks dug deep and burst into action. Bolting down the homestretch, Jenks overtook Tongue River’s Wyatt Ostler, then stretched across the finish line, beating Al Spotted by .22 seconds to seize gold.
“I thought I was tired,” Jenks said moments after the race. “For a second, I thought I was actually going to place third. But I decided that this is my last race of the season, and I tried to kick it in with everything I had left, even though my legs were tired.”
Jenks literally almost ran his shoes off, his loose laces flying behind him.
“I should have double-knotted them,” he said.
Jenks had every reason to be tired. Hours before lining up for the 1600-meter, Jenks secured second place in the 400-meter finals in a race with Ostler that came down to a hundredth of a second.
The highlight for Jenks was winning the 800 meter on Friday, sliding in under 2 minutes at 1:55.59, breaking the 2A Class record.
“It was a really fun race,” he said. “I looked at the clock and saw 1:55, so I was thoroughly happy.”
He also scored his third win and fourth All-State award when he pulled ahead of Javin Walker of Tongue River in the 300-meter hurdle finals, timed in at 40.60 seconds. It was the shortest leg for the distance specialist.
Jenks is a hardcore distance runner. He competed in cross country with Jackson this fall and joined Green River’s indoor track team to stay in shape. Jenks’ year-round work ethic and dedication showed during an explosive outdoor season, where he picked up one gold ribbon after the other in distance events and hurdles.
During a race, Jenks remains focused with a mantra.
“Mentally, I just say, ‘I’ve gotta keep going, I’ve gotta keep going.’ Toward the end of the race, when it’s time to kick, I mentally prepare myself right before and motivate myself going down the final stretch – I just want to cross that line.”
Jenks tries not to overthink a race before he gets into the starting position.
“I feel like I’ve never been good at mentally preparing myself,” he said. “Nobody can truly be ready for a race. I try to stay calm, try not to think about the race itself too much, or else it really stresses me out. I tell myself, ‘I’m going to do good and I’m going to race at my best, and whatever my best is, I’m going to be happy with it.”
Jenks actually excelled at hurdles before he branched out into long-distance events. In seventh grade, he earned the Best of the Best in hurdles. By 10th grade, he was “slowly getting used to the turnover” involved in “getting over the hurdles.”
The hurdles and the 800 or 1600 require different technique and skills, although Jenks said the 300 hurdles instilled in him a “mindset to keep going.”
When asked about lasting memories from the season, Jenks selflessly responded that “winning as a team” at Regionals in Shoshoni was a highlight.
“That was a big upset,” he said.
Jenks thanked his coaches at Wind River High School for “building up my base,” along with Coach Jeff Brazil of Jackson, the coaching staff at Green River and his current coaches.
“My coaches at Big Piney are amazing,” he added. “They’ve helped me a lot.”