ALEXANDRIA — Initially undertaken as an opportunity to stay in shape for her upcoming college basketball career, it soon became apparent Jada Stansberry’s first foray into track and field in six years was going to be a whole lot more.
Always known for her speed on the basketball court, Stansberry was told after the initial meet of the year by her coaches this could be a record-breaking season.
It became a spring of championships and school records for Stansberry, who became the first Alexandria girls athlete to qualify for the state track and field finals in nearly 30 years, and the Tigers senior has added the 2022 THB Sports Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year award to her resume.
“I didn’t even know I’d be running track,” she said. “Then I kind of just decided to go out and do it, and I really surprised myself as the season went on.”
What made Stansberry’s track season so surprising was she had not competed in the sport since the sixth grade.
She established new Alexandria girls records in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes and repeatedly broke her own marks throughout the season, the latter coming at the state finals. She was also a two-time Madison County champion (400 meters, 1,600-meter relay) and swept the three sprint races at the Central Indiana Conference meet.
“I really just went out there and ran my hardest and whatever happened, happened,” she said. “Then they’d say, ‘You broke another school record.’ It was crazy.”
She blazed to a pair of sectional championships at Marion, taking the 200 meters in 25.92 which was almost two seconds better than second place and dominating the 400 meters with a time of 57.87. She won the 400 by almost six seconds.
“That meant a lot because I always wanted to be a sectional champion,” she said. “To be able to do that on my own felt really good.”
The following week at regional, Stansberry qualified second for the 200 meters with a new personal-best time of 25.68 in the prelims and went on to place second in the 400 meters in 58.44 to lock up a trip to the state finals.
But, prior to the finals of the 200 meters, Stansberry was not feeling right. It was a familiar problem and -- believing she could not give it her all -- she scratched out of the finals.
“In basketball season, I had issues with my health, blood sugar. So I wasn’t feeling good after the 400,” Stansberry said. “I can’t go out there and give it 100%, so the coaches said, ‘OK, let’s just focus on the 400.'”
That worked out just fine.
Stansberry surprised herself one more time with a new school record of 57.79 and a spot on the podium in ninth place, outperforming her 14th seed.
“I felt like I was the underdog, so I felt like I could get that and there wasn’t much pressure on me to get on the podium,” she said. “I just went out there and gave it all I had, and I didn’t even think I had the podium.”
Stansberry was selected for the Midwest Meet of Champions, where she competed alongside Ramiah Elliott in the 400 and helped Indiana win the competition for the first time since 1991.
She plans to study elementary education while playing basketball at Anderson University.