She competed with a bad hamstring in the last two months of the 2009 track and field season, remained committed to club volleyball throughout and, at the end of the day, still accomplished what just one other Central Section athlete had in 93 years.
Jenna Prandini, as a sophomore at Clovis High, won four events in the section finals, which is officially called the Masters Championships, while scoring 40 points and powering the Cougars to a 57-56 win over Buchanan for the team title.
Yet coaches say she was never physically in top form; one even went so far as to call it an “off” year.
But, today, those coaches are saying, look at her now. Prandini is not only healthy, but rested as well. She also dropped club volleyball to concentrate on the sport that surely will finance her college education.
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They say the 17-year-old athlete who will be among today’s marquee entrants in the West Coast Relays at Buchanan High’s Veterans Memorial Stadium is that much better than the one who matched Madera’s Kim Young (1968) as the only quad gold medalists in section meet history.
“She’s a completely different athlete,” Clovis coach Greg Greenman says.
Adds Cougars coach Greg Friesen: “It’s obvious. Physically, she looks different. There’s a physical maturity that’s happened in the last six months.”
Bottom line, Friesen says, is this: “She’s proven she can be dominant on the Valley level. Now, it’s not just that — she’s proven she can beat anyone on the state level.”
He could have taken it a step further.
Prandini’s personal-best 20-feet, 2-inch long jump against a national-class field at the Arcadia Invitational last week leads the country. And that’s a leap that would have won the state 20 times since girls competition began in 1974.
In addition, in state rankings, she’s No. 3 in the 100 meters (11.73), No. 4 in the 200 (24.13) and No. 3 in the triple jump (39-3).
In section history, Prandini ranks No. 3 in the 100, No. 4 in the 200, No. 3 in the long jump and No. 4 in the triple (39-9, 2009).
And, imagine this, says Greenman: “Her best event could be the quarter-mile. She has an unbelievable amount of speed, and with that long stride and turnover, I think she’s a natural.”
Fans attending today’s WCR will get a rare glimpse of Prandini running a 400 when her coaches enter her as part of the team’s meet-ending 1,600 relay for training purposes only.
“I hate it,” she laughs. “I don’t like running a whole lap; I get too tired.”
Actually, Friesen — her primary coach — is attempting to accomplish just the opposite in a “very conservative” approach leading up to the state meet, which will return to Veterans Memorial Stadium on June 4-5.
While Prandini was also ranked highly in the state in four events last year, Friesen says she arrived for the state finals worn, fatigued and sore. She competed in the long and triple jumps and the 100, medaling only in the triple (sixth).
Consequently, Friesen has reduced her meet competition.
Today, she’s also entered in the 100 and triple jump. At the Stanford Invitational, she competed in the triple and 100. Two weeks later, at Arcadia, it was the long and 200.
“I’m learning as a coach with this kid,” Friesen says. “There’s only so many competitions in a high school body. You can’t expect them to be on every week throughout the year, so we’re focusing on certain key competitions.
“It’s an awful lot of fun coaching her. Seriously, you’re lucky to get a kid that quality as an athlete, student and person once in a career. And most people don’t.”