Huntley senior Omo Tseumah lost her shot at breaking the oldest meet record in the Fox Valley Conference girls track and field meet Monday.
But she gained a friend.
Crystal Lake South’s Mary Swenson, whose 5-foot-8 high jump in the 1980 FVC Meet had stood for 32 years, met Tseumah on Thursday at Grayslake Central when the meet started. Swenson returned Monday to cheer for her own record to be broken.
It didn’t happen. Tseumah, battling her exercise-induced asthma, was coughing violently between jumps and after missing her final attempt at 5-6. The 5-4 mark was her lowest winning height of the year.
Tseumah and McHenry's Mallory Wlasiuk both made 5-4, but Tseumah won with fewer missses.
Still, two competitors 33 years apart in age were able to talk, share stories and exchange phone numbers.
“It’s too bad she couldn’t do it,” said Swenson, who lives with her family in Bartlett. “She’s such a nice kid. It’s time. It’s more than time [for the record to fall].”
Swenson was a national class track and field athlete who graduated from South in 1980 and competed at Michigan State. She knew Jackie Joyner through competition in some of the national meets.
Swenson had followed Tseumah’s progress and wanted to be there for the big moment. Tseumah got to know a little about the name she had seen for so long on record sheets. Swenson offered to work with her this summer.
“She could be a 6-0 high jumper in the next year,” Swenson said. “That’s not taking anything away from Huntley’s staff, it’s just that when you get to college, they have the facilities where you can jump inside.”
Tseumah did not want to use her asthma as an excuse, but it obviously was a factor in holding her back. Her chest felt tight and at times she had difficulty getting air into her lungs.
Tseumah, who will jump at NCAA Division I Marquette next year, appreciated the surprise of meeting Swenson.
“It was amazing,” she said. “I knew her name. The fact she drove here to see me is so encouraging. It means the world to me.”
• Joe Stevenson is a senior sports writer for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @nwh_JoePrepZone.