At the end of the first day at the VHSL Class 6 girls' state track meet, Thomas Dale's star horizontal jumper, senior Madison McConico was asked about her winning triple jump.
Two questions were brought to the forefront. First, would she jump at one of the national meets, and second, how much distance did she think she could add to her new personal best of 41 feet and a half inch?
McConico, by nature, is a very pleasant person. She is genuine and gracious to a fault. Most importantly, she thinks of her answers before responding, a trait that would benefit more high school (and college and pro) athletes. "Yes, I'll be back for the Adidas meet, right here. Today was a breath of fresh air, as I see my hard work pay off." On that late February day, she topped 41 feet for the first time, and finished four inches ahead of her teammate, sophomore Devyn Parham, who would win the high jump and 55-meter hurdles as the duo propelled Dale to the team championship.
And while Madison the individual is friendly, Madison the competitor is fierce. As she stands at the far end of a runway prepping to jump, her warmup routine resembles that of an NFL wide receiver. She jumps, she bounces, and then she gets into a position as if a 240-pound linebacker were three feet across from her. Frozen for a second, McConico unleashes from a forward leaning standstill to a long angular stride, pouncing down the runway with elbows wide, all part of an effort to reach the board at the perfect spot, at which time it appears that she aims more to slam her spikes and push the foothold six inches underground rather than bound from it.
Her athletic arrogance was on full display last weekend at the Adidas Nationals, held at the Virginia Beach Sports Center. With one hop, one skip, and one bound, McConico leapt her way into the Virginia state record books. With a best new jump of 43-6.5 (13.27 m.), the Lady Knight demolished the 23-year-old state indoor record, set by Sheena Johnson of Gar-Field. Johnson, along with being the 2008 Olympic silver medalist in the 400-meter hurdles, set the previous mark of 42-4.75 at the 1999 VHSL AAA meet.
Along with setting the new state indoor standard, McConico's effort also landed her at US #5 all-time.
"I knew I had more in me than my current PR, but I had never dreamed of what the result was," said McConico, who was clearly as surprised as anyone with the 2 ½ foot progression. "I'm so beyond thankful!"
With outdoor season in its beginning stages, track fans will keep an eye to see how much farther McConico progresses, and her college choice. The best jumper in Virginia has yet to commit but plans to make a proper announcement from Thomas Dale soon.
"I'm looking at a bunch of schools, and I'm so excited. I'm still looking for the best fit for me, but this (search) is literally an inspiration for me."
Her next jumping coach will be only her second. For her four years of track, she has progressed under the tutelage of Thomas Dale Coach Jamarri (Jay) Price.
"I am eternally grateful to Coach Price," said McConico after the state meet. "He got me into track and is the only coach I have ever had. He's like family - he understands me mentally."
She used the state weekend as an example. "I used to get caught up in numbers. Now, I can talk with Coach and know what I need to do."
And when Madison does graduate, Price's next legacy athlete will already be on deck. In fact, with Devyn Parham as a star hurdler and high jumper, she brings a versality to the Thomas Dale roster that compliments her senior teammate perfectly.
Plus, the two get to train together every day. As McConico said, "You always need someone to push you."
And who better than Parham, the sophomore who placed second in the state triple jump, with a best of 40-8.5. She also won the high jump (5-6) and the 55-meter hurdles (8.06).With McConico placing second in the long jump, the duo combined for 46 of Dale's state-winning 53 points in their individual events.
Parham also credited Coach Price for her readiness to peak at the right time yet credits her coach for helping with physical preparation and race mechanics, as opposed to her teammate who seeks the mental edge first.
Speaking of her hurdle win, Parham spoke first about the preliminary heat. "I ran a clean, smooth race." Knowing that her mechanics were fine, she spent extra time with Price warming up to make sure her final wasn't hindered by a physical setback.
Price was the one who saw her potential early. And because of it, she became friendly with McConico before entering high school.
"I knew of her," said Parham. "But back in middle school, we just worked with them," implying that the only shared bond between the middle school tracksters and high school ones was the use of the track. "But, in my last year of middle school, (Price) had me train with her.
Immediate bonds were formed. "We're really alike, and we click together. Really, we do a lot of the same stuff." She starts reviewing a typical work week. "We might do short sprints one day, work with the jumping group, do plyometrics, run throughs.
Make no mistake, Parham has a favorite event. "I love the hurdles." With her ability to hurdle and jump well, she appears to be working into the mold of an athlete like Yvette Lewis, the former Olympian who earlier starred for Hampton University and Menchville High, where she scored 48 individual points to lead the Monarchs to a state championship in 2002. At Hampton, Lewis, who is now the Associate Women's Head Coach at her alma mater, won two NCAA triple jump championships (45-6.5 PR), before shifting her focus to the 100-meter hurdles, where she posted a best time of 12.67.
Parham is already thinking big, with LSU at the top of her wish list of schools. Georgia is also high on that list.
One thing is for certain. With this dynamic duo leading the way, the Thomas Dale girls' team will be heating up the lanes and runways of tracks all over the mid-Atlantic this spring.