High School Sports

Benbrook freshman sprints to school's first gold-medal effort

Mansfield's Jillian Johnson, shown in a 2016 meet, captured the Class 6A gold in the girls high jump Saturday with a career-best leap of 5-feet-10 inches. She had finished fifth at state the previous two seasons.
Mansfield's Jillian Johnson, shown in a 2016 meet, captured the Class 6A gold in the girls high jump Saturday with a career-best leap of 5-feet-10 inches. She had finished fifth at state the previous two seasons. Special to the Star-Telegram

Danika Washington wasn’t about to let history slip away.

The freshman from Benbrook High School, which opened in 2014, stumbled out of the starting blocks Saturday, admittedly nervous. However, she recovered to win the first gold medal in the program’s short history by taking first place in the Class 4A girls 400-meter dash at the University Interscholastic League Track and Field Meet at Mike A. Myers Stadium at the University of Texas in Austin.

“I got into the blocks and I was really nervous, and I think that’s why I stumbled, Washington said. “The gunman, when he said ‘Set,’ he held a long time.”

Despite the slow start, Washington ran a personal-best time of 57.08 seconds.

“It worried me, but she made up her stagger in a hurry,” Benbrook coach Ashley Rodriguez, adding with a laugh, “The first thing she said coming off the track was she was mad she didn’t run a 56 - and she might have had she not stumbled.”

Joining Washington in bringing home a gold medal was Mansfield junior Jillian Johnson with a career-best performance of 5 feet, 10 inches to win the Class 6A high jump. She unseated defending state champion Trophy Club Nelson senior Sanaa Barnes, who was second at 5-9.

Barnes, who medaled at state for a fourth straight season (one gold, two silver, one bronze) entered state tied for the third-best high jump in the nation, 5-11. She had cleared at least 5-10 in every meet this season, winning all five.

This was Johnson’s third straight trip to state and her first time to medal after back-to-back fifth-place finishes.

“I didn’t change anything. I just did what I usually do, and I just soared over the bar,” Johnson said. “Beating Sanaa and getting a PR at state in the same day is incredible. It’s still processing in my head that I had a PR at state.

Washington understands that feeling.

“I’m still kind of shocked,” she said of being the first gold medal winner in Benbrook’s two varsity seasons. “I bet tomorrow morning when I wake up it’ll hit me.”

Also in Class 4A, Kennedale junior Alexis Brown brought home four medals. She placed second in the 100 (11.57) and 200 (24.17), and was third in the long jump (18-4.25) and as part of the 4x100 relay (47.34, with freshmen Skylar Lewis and Brianna Brand and sophomore Daniell Cooper).

Keller junior Isabel Van Camp narrowly missed a gold medal, finishing second by .23 seconds in the 6A girls 800 with a time of 2:10.20.

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