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CARLINVILLE – Christina Pennington was never going to be tall.
“It was given that I’d be short,” she said. “It’s in the family genes. If I want to be taller, I wear my heels.”
The 4-foot-11 senior hasn’t let that deter her from pursuing an athletic career, however, and even though she is rarely among the top finishers, she is one of the most important athletes on Vandalia’s girls track team.
Pennington is primarily a sprinter and a long jumper, but in four years with the program, she said she has done “pretty much” every running event except hurdles.
Coach Mike Travelstead said that is why he appreciates her so much.
At the South Central Conference Championships on Tuesday, Travelstead was having a little trouble filling out his lineup, while also making sure that everyone could run at least once.
With only two runners allowed in each event, Travelstead sacrificed a faster runner in the 100-meter dash, because there was no way he was going to let Pennington leave without participating.
“She’s been here four years, and she’s been dependable,” Travelstead said. “I think that deserves something, and that’s why I let her run the 100.
“She’s like a utility player in baseball,” he said. “She doesn’t quite have the foot speed, but she does the sprints well.”
Pennington didn’t make it out of the preliminaries in the 100 on Tuesday, but she has no regrets about her track career.
She has never scored more than 10 points for the team during a season, but she probably could score zero points and still enjoy herself.
“It’s been loads of fun,” Pennington said. “I get out of school, hang out with my friends and running, in general, is fun.”
One of her goals in track was to long jump 12 feet, which she did in 2010, with a leap of 12 feet, 1 inch.
This season, however, she improved on that mark, placing fifth at a meet in Breese, with a jump of 12 feet, 6 ¾ inches.
“I’m doing much better in long jump,” she said.
A few more inches on her height could have “made quite a difference” for Pennington, Travelstead said, but Pennington isn’t the type to dwell on what she can’t control.
“It might have helped,” she said, “but I’ll never know.”
With just one meet left in her high school career, the sectional at Robinson next Saturday, Pennington’s focus will soon be on her future plans.
She is undecided on a college major, but she will be attending Kaskaskia College to take some general studies courses while she pins down a career path.
One thing is for sure, though.
If her work ethic is the same as it was while with the Lady Vandals, no matter what major she selects, she will be a success.