By BRETT MARSHALL
When she was running middle school cross country and track meets, Stanton County freshman Jenna Black kept seeing the names of two of the area's top runners in Wichita County's Paige Wells and Greeley County's Kennedy Schneider.
She also knew that one of the all-time great girls' distance runners in Kansas history hailed from Stanton County. That would be Dodie Martin, a four-time Class 2A cross country champion and a nine-time gold medalist at the state track and field championships.
"I just would see their names, their times and say to myself, 'these girls are good,'" said the Lady Trojans' Black, who is already making a name for herself in the first month of the prep cross country season. "Yes, I think it's going very well for a start because I wasn't sure how I'd rank."
Black has done more than just compete thus far.
She's unbeaten and twice, the most recent coming on Saturday at home in the Stanton County Invitational run at Prairie Pines Golf Course, Black outraced both Wells and Schneider, and in the process with her winning time of 15:26.05 over the 4-kilometer layout (2.5 miles), established a course record.
"I was pretty nervous the first time I raced against them (Wells/Schneider)," Black said. "I guess it was around the mile marker that I just told myself that I could hang with them pretty much."
That first time came on Sept. 10, when Black beat the two upperclassmen on Schneider's home course in Tribune. There, she finished 20 seconds ahead of Wells, a junior, and 31 seconds in front of Schneider, a senior. On Saturday, she crossed the finish line 17 seconds ahead of Wells and 37 seconds earlier than Schneider.
"That's given me a lot of good thoughts," Black said when asked about beating her two chief runners in this area of Kansas. "I just didn't know how it would go. Paige has a huge advantage with her height and long legs, and I know that Kennedy works hard and has had lots of success."
When the race on Saturday was completed, Black got a big surprise when Martin showed up. It was the first time the two had met.
"I was able to talk to her and get a photo together with her," Black said. "It was really good because I look up to her. What she did was amazing. I hope to keep it up because I've always had high goals. She told me to keep those goals high."
As far as immediate goals for her inaugural running season in high school, Black said it was simply for her and her team to do well at state.
"If that happens, then it's a really good year," Black said.