Polk’s Jenkins set to take love of track and field to Mars Hill

Track and field began as an idle pastime for Lindsey Jenkins, a way to spend days with friends when she had nothing better to do.

The sport is now helping Jenkins continue a family college legacy.

Jenkins signed a letter-of-intent Tuesday to continue her track and field career at Mars Hill College, celebrating that decision with family and friends at a ceremony in Polk County High School’s auditorium.

The Wolverine senior has emerged as a reliable competitor for Polk County, taking second in the 800 meters at the recent Mountain Foothills 7 Conference Championships and also taking second in the high jump. She finished ninth in the 500 meters at the 2020 state indoor 1A/2A meet and even tackled the 3200 this season for Polk.

She is a key part of the Polk 4×800-meter relay team that enters Friday’s 2A West Regional as the top seed in the event.

All of that in a sport in which she never intended to try.

“In my freshman year, I just did track for fun,” Jenkins said. “I had friends doing it and I had nothing else to do.

“I never thought it would be so important to me that I would be going to college for it.”

How much the sport had taken hold in Jenkins’ life became evident when she couldn’t compete during the coronavirus pandemic. Not being active in Wolverine colors brought a realization that track was no longer just an entertaining afternoon diversion.

“In my sophomore year, COVID happened and took everything away, and I realized how important track had become to me,” Jenkins said. “It took everything away and I missed it.”

When competition resumed, Jenkins worked even harder to excel, and Polk County head coach Alan Peoples noted that as one of the keys to Jenkins’ success.

“(Jenkins) worked hard and earned it,” he said.

The Mars Hill campus isn’t unfamiliar to Jenkins; her father graduated from there. Jenkins said the Lions have indicated they would like her to run distances from 400 to 1600 meters and also possibly continue to high jump.

The family connection had Jenkins already thinking about attending Mars Hill, where she hopes to study exercise science or nursing. She completed an online form indicating an interest in the Lions’ track and field program, beginning a path that led to Tuesday’s signing.

“Their coaches contacted me, and they were all really nice,” Jenkins said. “They said they would love to see me on the team.

“I’m really excited about being around all my teammates there. I think that will help me with the transition to college, being able to be around the same group of people every day.”

Jenkins isn’t ready just yet to start planning her college career as she’ll be busy at Friday’s regional meet. Jenkins has the eighth fastest time among all 2A state runners this season in the 800 meters, second fastest in the 2A West field, and will be integral to Polk’s relay hopes.

She hopes to make herself, her family and the Polk County coaching staff proud in her final regional and, hopefully, state competitions.

“The coaches here have been a really big part of my journey,” Jenkins said. “I don’t think I would have come to love track as much as I do without them.”