When Brianna Rawlings became an overnight sensation last year, Lauren Tincher was her biggest fan.
"She idolized Brianna," first-year Aurora head girls track and field coach Kory Rorabaugh said of her talented pupil.
Rawlings, who finished seventh in the long jump at the 2018 state meet, decided to move away from Aurora to compete for the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
No worries for the Greenmen, though. Rawlings’ protege has continued Aurora’s excellence in the long jump.
Tincher, a rising sophomore, concluded a stellar season at the Division I state track and field meet Saturday. The state competition took place at The Ohio State University’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus.
Tincher finished 16th in the long jump with a leap of 15 feet, 8 inches. Both Tincher and Rawlings advanced to the state competition despite being first-year varsity athletes.
Tincher certainly hoped to reach the grandest stage of all someday. The fact that it happened so soon was particularly pleasing for the gifted freshman.
"I followed Brianna’s accomplishments and was hoping that would be me one day," Tincher said. "I never would have known it would be just one year later."
Tincher won a district title in Austintown with a leap of 16-11 last month. Therefore, her performance at the state meet was not what she had in mind.
"She was disappointed in how she jumped," Rorabaugh said. "It was such a privilege for her to get down there. She’s a very determined young athlete. When she puts her mind to doing something, she will definitely do it."
Tincher now knows what it’s like to compete against the best of the best. She can’t wait to do it again next year.
"My experience at the state meet was truly unforgettable," Tincher said. "I did not want to be nervous at my last meet. I just wanted to have fun.
"It was not my best jumping day, but I think there are a lot of changes I can make for next year that could not be made before the state meet because they were too risky.
"All long-jump pits are different and as a jumper, accommodating for each pit is essential. Now I have a feel for the Jesse Owens’ pit."
Tincher, who had reached more than 17 feet during the regular season, had to jump into a head wind. She certainly hopes to get another crack at the state competition before she departs from Aurora.
Fortunately, she’s already way ahead of schedule.
"She was completely floored when she was a district champion," Rorabaugh said. "She was maybe sitting sixth at regionals. When she qualified, it was like, ‘Wow.’ She has nerves of steel. Nothing fazes her."
Tincher didn’t expect to nearly match her idol’s accomplishments just one year later. However, once the district competition began, she started to feel much more confident about her chances.
"Going into this season, I had no idea how it was going to go, let alone making it to the state meet," Tincher said. "Reaching the state meet was not a goal of mine at the beginning of the season, but once we reached the postseason, I thought it was plausible. I wanted to go to state more than anything."
The fact that her season ended didn’t make Tincher particularly happy. Regardless, it was quite a fantastic spring for the Greenmen’s newest superstar.
"This track season was an amazing experience that I will never forget," Tincher said. "That includes the girls I jumped with, my coaches and relay team members."
Tincher certainly hopes for bigger and better things in the next three years. Her primary goal is to break the school-record leap of 18-2.
By the way, the current record holder happens to be the person she admired so deeply the previous year.
"Brianna broke the previous school record by a lot," Tincher said. "I want nothing more than to break her record."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.