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Jenkins is state champ for 3200

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Not typically known for its nightlife, Bryson City was alive and kicking at 11 p.m. on Saturday night as the Swain County track and field team rolled back into town from the state championship meet in Greensboro. The bright lights from fire trucks and police cars whirred as state champion 3200-meter runner Ryan Jenkins stepped off the bus and began strolling through downtown to greet friends, fans, and onlookers like a presidential candidate at a campaign rally.

Jenkins claimed the state title hours before in Greensboro with a time of 9:46.71. It was a fitting finish for a state championship, with Jenkins edging out longtime rival Drew Zink from Lincoln Charter at the very end as his teammates cheered him on from the side of the track. Zink finished second with a time of 9:46.86.

“It was a battle,” said Jenkins of the race. “Coming into the last lap, Ole’ Drew Zink thought he had me beat, but I ran the last lap in 1:04 to beat him.”

Swain County Athletic Director Neil Blankenship said the win is a great lesson for future Maroon Devils.

“As a coach, you look at it and see how hard he has worked, coming up here in the winter and running around the track in the cold,” said Blankenship. “This is a kid who hates to miss practice. When we cancel meets for rain, he doesn’t like it. He wants to get better every day. That is probably the most rewarding thing. You have a kid who has worked so hard, and to see that pay off for him is a great example for other athletes at our school about hard work and commitment. He has made himself this way.”

Jenkins, who finished his senior season undefeated, wore his state, regional and conference championship medals to school on Monday in celebration. He was also measured for his ring size on Monday for a state championship ring. He has been running on pure joy and adrenaline ever since the race.

“I didn’t even get to sleep until about two o’clock in the morning after we got back from Greensboro because I was so wired,” he said.

His high school running career is now complete, but don’t expect that to slow down the Swain County hero.

“I shall find some way to run for myself just to keep healthy,” Jenkins said.

Smoky Mountain Times

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