COLUMBUS — Brianna Rawlings never expected to make it on the medal stand.
She couldn't have anticipated anything about the way her freshman year ended.
In her third year of long jumping, the Aurora freshman found herself at the pinnacle of the sport, on a medal stand with the seven top long jumpers in all of Division I. There she was, Ohio's eighth-best Division I long jumper with a leap of 17-9 1/2 inches, reached on her first jump of Saturday's finals, which took place at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus.
All of which came as a stunning surprise for Rawlings, who snagged a long-jump title at the Austintown district meet and runner-up at the Austintown regional meet en route to Columbus. At Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, she was the second best underclassman in Division I, behind only Mentor freshman Paige Floriea, who took third.
Rawlings said she didn't see any of it coming.
"Oh no, no idea," Rawlings said. "I was so surprised. I'm just happy to be here."
She certainly has come a long way from seventh grade, when she balked at her mother's suggestion that she give long jumping a try.
"At first, it was funny because I was scared of getting dirty in the sand, but now I just love it," Rawlings said.
In seventh grade, she didn't get past 15 feet.
"Seventh grade wasn't that good of a year," Rawlings said.
Eighth grade was a little better as she reached 16-3 1/2.
By her freshman year of high school, Rawlings was in the mid-17s, even reaching a personal record of 18-2.
And that's the thing about Rawlings. For as incredible and unpredictable as her freshman year was, she's more than capable of climbing that Columbus medal stand. Her current PR of 18-2 would have snagged fifth Saturday.
Given that she has jumped a foot farther every year she has jumped, Rawlings’ ceiling is hard to determine.
But the freshman is determined to reach that ceiling.
Leading up to her freshman track and field season, Rawlings, whose time is largely occupied by tennis, her first sport, practiced jumping once a week for four weeks.
She's planning on a lot more than once a week for four weeks to get ready for her next three years.
"Definitely, I'm going to work harder," Rawlings said. "I'm probably going to practice more in the winter before the season just to get better because I know a lot of the best girls here do that. I just want to focus more on practicing."
In the pole vault, Corinne Henderson finished 16th in the state, after hitting 10 feet on her first try and 10-6 on her second attempt. The Lady Greenmen junior needed 11-6 to medal.
"I was glad to make the opening height at 10 feet on my first attempt, especially since I've never come in at that height," Henderson said. "I wish I could've made 10-6 on my first try, though."
Still, after falling shy of the state meet last year, Henderson was simply thrilled to be at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
"The state meet was an amazing experience," she said. "The way I think of it is that it was an honor just making it to the meet, and once I made it, I wanted to treasure the moment."