Gateway hurdlers to be well represented at WPIAL meet

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Sunday, May 9, 2021 | 11:01 AM


Jayson Jenkins is known in athletic circles at Gateway as a talented place kicker who will head to Robert Morris in August and join the Colonials football team.

But this spring, the Gators senior is making strides one leap at a time as one of the WPIAL’s top hurdlers.

He finished fourth overall in the 110-meter hurdles (15.76 seconds) at the South Fayette Invitational on May 1 and is ranked fifth (15.74) in Class AAA in the event on the most recent WPIAL performance lists.

“I think as an athlete, you are never happy with where you are, and you know there is always room to improve,” said Jenkins, who also placed third in the 300 hurdles at South Fayette with a season-best time of 42.70 seconds. He ranks 11th overall in the 300.

“For me, there are things like trying to turn my arms faster or getting over the hurdles faster with foot placement. Anything I can do to cut time, I want to work.”

Jenkins is a part of a Gateway hurdles group which will be well represented at WPIALs. Senior Omarion Davidson and freshman Kierra “Kiki” Pitts also are ranked in WPIAL Class AAA and are positioned to qualify for WPIALs.

The top 24 in each event in Class AAA earn berths to WPIALs, set for May 19 at Slippery Rock.

Jenkins, Davidson and Pitts hoped to better their times in both hurdle events at the Baldwin Invitational on Friday and Saturday at Baldwin High School.

“We try not to pay attention to the lists until they are final, but it’s hard to not want to see where you are ranked against everyone else,” Gateway hurdles coach Jackie Smith said.

“I think that is motivation for them, as well. For me, I am always excited because it gets them excited to work even harder. They’ve put in the work despite being slowed down a little bit with the covid days.

“It’s funny because they talk about hitting certain times at the beginning of the season. At first, they seem like they’re not attainable, but then they start to watch the times drop as the season progresses. That’s exciting.”

Jenkins said the 110 hurdles at WPIALs will be a fun race.

“We’ve all run at different invitationals, and I’ve run against a number of them, but it will be great to have them all together in one place to see who is the best,” he said.

Davidson started hurdling at the start of last year.

“It was like the first or second practice, and I saw Jayson was hurdling,” he said. “I went over to him and asked him if I could come over and hurdle with him. He said yes, and it got started from there.”

Davidson hoped to make strides along with Jenkins, but progress was halted when the season was canceled amidst the growing covid pandemic. But Davidson kept working, including time spent over the summer with college coach Jose Rivera, the father of former Gateway and Cal (Pa.) sprint standout Julius Rivera.

“He really helped me improve my skills,” Davidson said.

Davidson is ranked 12th in Class AAA in the 300 hurdles and 16th in the 110 hurdles.

“When (Davidson) came out for this season, I was like ‘Whoa, you really worked hard,’” Jenkins said. “He’s progressed with every meet. I am really proud of him for that.”

Davidson’s fourth-place time of 42.90 in the 300 hurdles at South Fayette was a personal best.

“I tried to go for my PR in the 110, but in the finals, I messed up my first hurdle, and I just stopped running because I didn’t want to hurt myself trying to gather back into the race,” Davidson said.

His personal best in the 100 heading into Baldwin was 16.78.

“I never thought I would get to this point,” Davidson said. “The season is coming to an end, so at this point, I am just working on sharpening my skills to get ready for WPIALs.”

Pitts has burst onto the scene with strong performances in both hurdles events.

“She is young and talented and has really embraced her role as a freshman,” Smith said. “She has a great attitude, and she if she keeps working hard, she has a really bright future.”

Pitts placed fifth in the 100 hurdles and eighth in the 300 hurdles at South Fayette and was ranked eighth in Class AAA in the 100 hurdles before Baldwin with a season-best time of 17.13 seconds.

She also found herself ranked 17th in the 300 hurdles (51.17).

“They are really excited to have to opportunity to compete at WPIALs,” Smith said.

“It feels like this season, things have been pushed back, and they haven’t been able to do everything they wanted to do, but they have made no excuses. You will never hear them complain. They just put in the work. Sometimes, I might say, ‘We’ll cut the workout a little short today,’ and they will say, ‘No, we’ll finish it.’ That’s the dedication to getting better I love to see.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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