JACKSON — All season long on the track, Jackson’s Olivia Kennedy was a force to be reckoned with.
If you lined up in a race against her, chances were that you were eating her dust as she collected one first place finish after another.
Along with those finishes came break school records, and then rebreaking them again as the improvement continued to show as the season got deeper.
She set new school records in the 400 and 800, won three FAC titles (400, 800, 4x400) and three district titles (100, 400, 800).
Then she crossed the line as a regional champion in the 400 at Southeastern High School, punching her ticket to the state meet.
The Courier caught up with Kennedy to talk about the season, breaking records, winning a regional and much more.
Question: What was the track season like for you, the high and lows especially after not being able to compete last season because of the pandemic?
Kennedy: I could not be more thankful to have a junior season. Last year was crushing; my heart goes out to all of the athletes that did not get another season. With that being said, I took the gap year to train like I never had before. I came into the season extremely focused, ready to make up for that loss. The highs — personal records, school records and qualifications felt that much sweeter. There were extra nerves throughout the season because I knew just how important my junior year was, but those feelings were overcome through the support of family, friends, and coaches.
Q: All season long, you were breaking record after record. Which is more satisfying: setting new school records or seeing your time continue to drop? And why?
K: As much as I love getting personal records, I would have to say that putting my name on the record board at my high school was one of my happiest moments. Even as a small girl, I wanted my name to be up there with the best in Jackson history. After years of hardwork and the grace of God, I am.
Q: Throughout the season you competed in 4-5 different events, winning nearly all of them. Which was your favorite and why?
K: The 400 meter has always been my race. It’s a tough race, maybe that is the draw for me. The 800 meter was an exciting surprise, translating my speed and endurance over to that level of success was very nice. I am looking forward to running the 800 more next year.
Q: Talk about that regional meet. Were there any nerves going into it, and what was that feeling like crossing that finish line as a regional champion in the 400?
K: Absolutely there were nerves. However, I knew I belonged at state and needed to trust in my training. Crossing the line as a regional champ was something I will never forget. The memory of coming up a hair short of state my freshman year fueled me to put everything I had into crossing the line before anyone else. Winning the 400 was great growth to see.
Q: Although you didn’t make the podium, you still competed at the highest level in your final meet of the season. What did that mean to you to accomplish that?
K: For my entire running career I have trained with the mindset to outwork everyone else. I work out before school, after practice, on the weekends, and during vacation. I never lost sight of the goal, and that kept me motivated to keep grinding. To see my training pay off by making it to the big show was the best delayed gratification I have experienced. To say it meant a lot would be a great understatement.
Q: What was the best part about going to state and how does being on the big stage drive you to improve for next season?
K: My favorite part was being surrounded by the best runners in the state — it was an incredible environment. Eighteen females qualified for my event and every one of them are phenomenal runners. Seeing how close I was to the podium is a huge motivator to keep training hard for next year. I know that with continued work, there are better things to come.
Q: Going into next season, what are a couple goals you have set for yourself?
K: Experimenting with the 800 meter dash and whittling my time down as low as I can get is something that I am looking forward to. After having the eighth best time in the 400M preliminaries but not advancing, making it to finals is what I am training for.