A year ago, Suerethia Henderson was one of a group of middle school and young high school track athletes Lima Senior girls track coach Emmanuel Curtis took to the state track meet to show them what that event is like.
A year later, Henderson will be on the other side of the fence on the track as a competitor in the state meet as a freshman this weekend. She won the 100-meter dash in 12.25 seconds and finished runner-up in the 200 meters in 25.07 seconds at the Amherst regional last week to qualify for the Division I state meet in both those events.
“It was fun. I enjoyed it. It’s a big atmosphere, a lot of teams, a lot of people,” Henderson said about last year’s trip to Columbus. “Going to state this year is going to be a lot different, though.
“I didn’t expect to be doing as well as I am. I actually impressed myself because I didn’t think I was going to do that well,” she said.
Curtis said he knew early that Henderson could be an exceptional runner.
“We spotted her in middle school because of what she had been doing and the times she had been running. We had some high expectations,” he said.
In her first season, Henderson won the 100-meter dash in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference meet, the district meet and the regional and finished second in the 200 meters to Fremont Ross’ Vanashia Elkins in all three of those meets.
Her times have dropped consistently during the season to a best of 12.23 seconds in the regional preliminaries last week.
She said winning the district was when she became confident she could make the transition from outrunning the competition in middle school to succeeding against talented high school runners. “That’s when it kind of sunk in,” she said.
Curtis said the realization that she could compete at the highest levels came earlier for the coaches.
“For us as coaches, when she won the 100 at the (Huber Heights) Wayne Invitational around May 1, that’s when we knew. There were 45-plus teams there. When she won the 100 and placed third in the 200 there we knew she had a legit shot to make it,” he said.
“Her confidence got stronger over the year. If you have that confidence in track and field, everything else takes care of itself. She has grown up a lot this year. It’s been fun to watch and we’re hoping she seals the deal.
“We set simple goals. It’s not about going to state and now you have to win it. We never talk about winning state, leagues, districts or regionals. Just focus on your own race and do your part,” he said.