LEXINGTON – This Jaida Tooley isn’t the same Jaida Tooley from a year ago.
Last season as a timid freshman, just competing at state was good enough. This year as a sophomore, Tooley found herself competing one-on-one for a championship.
This Tooley is confident and looking at what she hopes is a long, successful career.
The Warren Central jumper earned her best outdoor medal in her young career Friday at the KHSAA Class 2A State Track and Field Championships, finishing runner-up in the girls’ high jump at the University of Kentucky.
Tooley cleared 5 feet, 2 inches and left unsatisfied since it was two inches short of the personal best she jumped earlier this year. That alone is enough fuel for the promising sophomore.
“I was mad at myself because I knew I could do better,” Tooley said. “That’s going to take me to next year and I’m going to keep pushing myself harder and do better.”
Tooley’s runner-up finish doubles her fourth-place finish at last year’s state meet, which marked her first season even trying the high jump. She was a softball player in middle school who needed convincing by others she should consider track as a freshman. She qualified for state last year in her first season and cleared five feet.
On Friday, she added two inches to that jump and moved up two spots on the podium. Both seasons she’s finished behind state champion Promise Cross of Rowan County, who cleared 5-8.
Toward the end of the event, it was just Tooley and Cross competing while other participants became spectators.
“Even though people are watching me more, I felt more at ease and was just out there jumping,” Tooley said. “Last year, it was crazy that I even got there as a freshman high jumping and everything. It really pushed me more because I knew I could do better and my friends and teammates encouraged me.”
Warren Central assistant coach Aaron Carver believes Tooley has a chance to clear the school record of 5-10 before she graduates. That mark set by Robin Gard in 1982 still stands as the state 3A record.
“She still has a lot of growth to go just in how she attacks the bar,” Carver said. “I believe she can get it. She can go further. She’s got a lot of work to put in, though. She has two years to do it. She’s improved two spots every year, so it looks good for next year.”
Tooley’s second-place finish was the highest of area competitors at the 2A meet that was postponed to finish Saturday morning due to inclement weather. The 4x400-meter relay races will resume at 8 a.m. CDT.
Butler County’s Tyler Lynch led three area medalists in the high jump by placing third, clearing 6 feet, 2 inches. Glasgow’s Kynarius Flint and Warren Central’s Tre Pillow each tied for sixth.
But the moment came with mixed feelings for Lynch. While he was thrilled to medal in his first season of track and field, a hairline fracture sustained during the region meet on his jumping foot prevented the junior from clearing his best.
Although he was displeased with the circumstances, Lynch was still pleased to even be competing in Lexington.
“It’s been really important for me,” Lynch said. “I’ve never really done anything and been known for it. This is something that really speaks to me. I’m honored to even be at state. Most people in their first year wouldn’t be here. This is for me. Next year, I hope to come out and get the win.”
At the time of the weather delay with two events to run, the Warren East boys’ team sat 10th in the team standings with 20 points. The 2A, Region 2 champions were led by a third-place finish in the 4x800-meter relay team of Colton Bullington, Tre Colson, Garrett Elrod and Will Lovell to finish in 8 minutes, 25.06 seconds.
Elrod also turned in a fourth-place finish in the boys’ 800-meter run in 2:00.99. Lady Raider Amiyah Carter jumped 16 feet, 5½ inches to finish fifth in the long jump for the highest placement of the Warren East girls’ team.
Denzel Wood was the top finisher for Glasgow by placing fourth in the boys’ 110-meter hurdles in 15.34.
With two events left, Boyle County had a 37-point lead in the boys’ team standings with 98 points, followed by Paducah Tilghman in second and North Oldham (47) in third.
On the girls’ side, Mercer County has a one-point lead over Boyle County with the 4x400-relay still to run. Tooley’s runner-up finish in the high jump were the only points scored to the Warren Central girls’ team.
– Follow sports reporter Elliott Pratt on Twitter @EPrattBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com