A common question most people ask young athletes who reach the New York State Outdoor Championships is, “Where did you place?”
While he understands why people ask the question, Southampton girls track head coach Eddie Arnold said it’s not really a fair one, especially for a young athlete, such as Southampton freshman Bridget Ferguson, who made her debut at states in the high jump this past weekend at Middletown High School.
“No one really understands what states is about,” Arnold said. “You have athletes up there who are breaking state records, some are even setting new nationals records. That’s why it’s such a big deal just to even make the field, and then, when you start going up there consistently, you get a better understanding of what it’s about.
“Which is why I say when someone asks me how one of my athletes did at states, ‘It was a great experience,’” he continued. “We had a 14-year-old girl going up to states by herself, making a four-hour trip on a bus full of different athletes she doesn’t know. I really do think the first time is a journey and a great experience and anything you do learn from this visit, you get better just from experiencing it.”
Arnold and Ferguson found out shortly after arriving in Middletown that the opening height in the high jump would be 4 feet 10 inches, not an insurmountable height by any means, but much higher than that at typical meets. Ferguson set her personal best of 5 feet at the state qualifier, where she won the Small Schools county title, but her initial goal was to clear the opening height and go from there.
After clipping the bar with her calves on her first two attempts, Ferguson cleared 4 feet 10 inches on her third and final attempt to keep her run going, and in essence, keep her journey going. She couldn’t clear the next height of 5 feet, but as far as Arnold was concerned, it was a successful trip.
“You have to visit the experience to know what it is,” Arnold said. “This was a very good, quality opportunity for the future for Bridget Ferguson. Now she knows what it’s about. She was very mature about the situation. I was very proud of the way she handled herself, and I think she learned something about herself.”
Arnold said the success of the young Ferguson mirrors that of the team’s young, but very athletic group. He feels the future is very bright for his program.
“I really believe the program is heading in the right direction,” he said. “I believe we really shocked the county, at least other small schools, at the division meet. I had coaches saying to me that we’ll be the powerhouse school the next few years, so I think we really broke through at Divisions and we really saw there what we’re capable of doing. With a healthy Katey O’Brien, and our relay teams and some individual qualifiers, I think we’ll be good.”