April 9, 2009
CALEDONIA -- It''s all in the pacing for Jessica Comer.
As a freshman last year, the Caledonia High School distance runner learned about heartbreak when she was nudged out at the tape in the 800 meters at the Class 4A state meet.
This season, Comer is using that third-place finish as motivation as she builds toward another run at a state title.
Comer''s first step was a strong one.
Comer won the 3,200, 1,600, and 800 and was a member of the 4x400-meter team that took second Saturday at the Winona Relays.
For her accomplishments, Comer is The Commercial Dispatch Prep Player of the Week.
Comer won the 3,200 in a time of 12 minutes, 19 seconds, the 1,600 in 5:50, and the 800 in 2:28. Her opening leg of 1:04 in the relay helped the team of Caitlin Gilbreath, Brooke Lester, and Jelisha Hackman take
Comer said she was happy with her performance in the team''s first real meet of the season. But she said she is building toward bigger and
"I want to get to state and go back and run the 800 and win this time. I don''t want to come in third," Comer said. "I really, really want to help my relay team get to state. Last year, we finished fifth at North Half and we almost made it to state. It was sad. Jelisha hasn''t made it to state in any of her track years, and I really would like to see her go, especially with the 4x400 team because we would get to run together."
Oxford''s Virginia Mikell (2:28.33) and Saint Martin''s Jazmin Scott (2:28.63) edged Comer (2:28.7) at the finish of last year''s 800.
Caledonia coach James Reed said Comer has matured since that race and is taking on a bigger load. He said he has added the 1,600 to Comer''s to-do list for meets this season.
Reed said he wasn''t surprised at how well Comer did in the first meet.
"We expect her to run well," Reed said. "We know what times she is supposed to have. She did what she needed to do. As a matter of fact, she had a little bit left. We knew she had to run the 4x400 and we kind of pulled her up a little bit short."
Reed said Comer''s intelligence and feel for the strategy and timing of distance running helps her be so successful. That success has come quickly this season despite poor weather and a lack of track and field facilities at the high school.
Still, he said Comer continues to get stronger and more confident for a push for the state meet.
"Probably the best thing that happened to her last year as far as preparing for this year was not winning the 800," Reed said. "She was within a lunge of winning the race. If she would have finished the race, (she would have won). She has heard that a lot from me this year, so she knows what it will take to finish the race."
Comer isn''t sure how much Reed will be able to yell to her the rest of the season. Reed had surgery earlier this week to repair a detached retina and has been told by doctors he isn''t supposed to yell.
Reed lowered his decibel level a few notches Wednesday at practice, but could be easily heard halfway across the track.
Comer said she will continue to work toward her goal regardless of whether Reed is as loud as last year or if he is a little quieter.
"If you don''t want to do well at the meet, don''t practice hard," Comer said. "If you want to do good, you practice, and what you practice you''re going to perform. When you get to the meet, you see what you''re made of and you push it out there.
"I am pretty close, but I can always do better. When I am running I don''t think about the other things until right at the end. Then I think, ''Wait, do I have enough left?'' Then I push it out there."
Reed will do his best to follow his doctor''s orders and push Comer to realize her goals at the same time.
"She is the type of athlete with the work ethic she has she is going to do well," Reed said. "She knows what is expected of her and what pace she has got to do and where she has to be at a certain point.
"Right now, we are ahead of the pace we were on last year when she finished third in the state in the 800."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.