CALUMET CITY | The fears that Emani James had last year as a triple jump state qualifier are behind her.
What she hopes is ahead of her is a personal-best jump and a medal at the IHSA Class 3A state championships, which are today and Saturday at Eastern Illinois University.
Teammate and classmate Charlene Horton said she has some butterflies, but she was more nervous trying to qualify.
James is in the triple jump while Horton is in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles, and the 200.
James' progress has been in phases, much like her event and the final phase is getting her jump off the board.
"It took me some time to get the hop and skip down, but I did," James said. "I feel really good about that last one, jumping off the board."
Coach Omari Garrett said it has been like a construction project.
"We are at Phase III and this is the time to get it all together," Garrett said. "She is getting better, but still has a slight fear of landing awkwardly."
Horton said there is still that unknown since this is her first trip to state.
"I'm ready and I don't think I am going to take first, but I am going to try and do something," Horton said. "I am worried about the hurdles because there are some good girls in those events. I want to focus on the 200, but that is the next-to-last race."
Garrett said he expects the two juniors to be competing on Saturday. James' 37 feet, 4 1/4 inches is the sixth best jump coming out of sectionals. He said Horton does fave a tougher battle.
"She has a great competitive nature once the gun fires," Garrett said. "I believe she could run and hurdle with anyone in Charleston. One of the areas that we have been focusing on the last few weeks is her start. If she gets a good jump on the rest of the field then she’s hard to beat."
James said her goal is to get to 38 feet today.
"I want to get to Saturday and you never know what can happen," James said. "It is just a matter of concentrating."
Horton said she has to run up to the competition.
"I know if I can stay up with the faster girls, I'll be fine," Horton said. "I just have to try and stay up with them."