The hurdle that tripped up Jarmal Latney in the first event of yesterday's pentathlon at the Nike Indoor Championships was not the only obstacle that the Gar-Field senior had to overcome.
When Latney stumbled at the second hurdle in the 60-meter hurdle race, the fall essentially ended any chance that Latney would be victorious in his first-ever pentathlon, made up of five track and field events. It also left him with a scraped-up right wrist and, possibly, psyche.
"The fall in the hurdles devastated me, but I had to pick myself up and finish the race," said Latney, whose wrist required medical attention and some athletic tape. "That's one thing our coach always teaches us -- to always get up and finish the race. It handicapped me, but I thought I could make it up."
Latney finished the race in 11.3 seconds, almost four seconds slower than the time he ran in the Virginia AAA meet. The hurdles were his best event entering the competition at the Prince George's Sports and Learning Center in Landover, but Latney found himself in 13th place after the hurdles.
In the next event, the long jump, one of the spikes on Latney's track shoes dug into his right hand during the landing on his first jump, causing another cut and some considerable pain. That, too, called for some antibacterial spray and some more athletic tape.
After two scratches, Latney had only one official jump: 19 feet, 8 inches. A bad day was getting worse.
"That got my confidence down a little bit," Latney said. "I didn't really let it bother me, I tried to stay focused the whole time. But it's just a learning experience."
Before the shot put, the third event, the tape on his hands and wrists called for a ruling from the judges on the field. Athletes cannot have anything on their hands besides chalk, and the excess athletic tape prompted the judges' review. His bandages were ruled to be legal, however, and Latney threw the shot 33 feet, 6 1/2 inches.
With his favorite event next, the high jump, Latney hoped to make up some ground on his competition. But after the first three events, he was in 13th place out of 14 contestants. He jumped 5 feet, 11 3/4 inches, only four inches off his personal best, but it was not enough to budge his overall rank.
In the final event, the 1,000-meter run, Latney finally overtook two of his competitors. He finished the race in 3:04.57, good enough to get him to 11th place at the end of the day.
"That's life -- you win some and you lose some," Latney said. "There are a lot of great guys out here, someone here could go on to be the next Dan O'Brien."
Still, to Latney, and Gar-Field Coach Jeff Custer, it was not his final place that mattered. Latney had never trained specifically for the pentathlon, and he had never competed in one. The pentathlon is not an officially sanctioned high school event in Virginia; it is only staged in national tournaments.
"This will give him good experience for college and for outdoor," Custer said. "He overcame some adversity, and when things went wrong he didn't quit and he finished the day."