Ebony McClendon’s introduction to high school running wasn’t much fun.
It was in the fall of 2010. Like other prospective members of the Brooks track team, she was on the cross country squad, too.
“I cried at my very first meet,” McClendon said. “It was at Lane Tech and it was horrible. When I got to the end, I sprinted. I think that’s when Coach ‘D’ [Delin Hill] realized, ‘OK, this is not for her.’ ’’
McClendon still trains with the Eagles cross country team — a strategy that Brooks shares with coach Derrick Calhoun’s highly successful Morgan Park squads — but her niche is clearly the shorter races in the spring.
She had a breakout indoor season, with national top-10 times in the 55- and 60-meter dashes along with U.S. top-50 efforts in the 200, 300 and 400.
Nothing has changed since the outdoor season began. McClendon already has personal bests in the 100 (11.81) and 200 (24.36), the former No. 1 in Class 2A in Illinois according to DyeStatIl.com and the latter second to Cahokia’s Mariya Hudson (24.33).
The numbers are all the more impressive given the Eagles’ facilities, or more accurately lack thereof. Like all Public League schools, Brooks has no indoor track. It doesn’t have an outdoor one either, so a good chunk of
McClendon’s practice time comes in one of the school’s gyms or the weight room.
“My workout, it’s pretty much the same [as before],” McClendon said. “Speed and endurance days … it’s the same type of stuff, but it’s a lot more. I think I’m a lot stronger. At the beginning of the season, I was doing a lot of lifting. … So that really helped me.”
It has helped McClendon earn a scholarship to Wisconsin, a school that impressed her more the second time around. She made an unofficial visit to Madison and took in a meet, but “wasn’t that interested.”
Then she went back for an official visit and saw things in a new light: “I loved the campus, it’s gorgeous and I loved the coaches.”
McClendon plans to major in psychology, a subject she appreciates for its real-world applications. Just as she started speaking Spanish at home when she took that class, she puts her advanced placement psych knowledge to work: “Something happens at my house, [I say], ‘Oh, you’re being a convergent thinker.’”
One thing McClendon thinks about, according to her coach, is showing well every time out.
“She always is nervous about doing poorly,” Hill said.
That’s rarely an issue, of course. She’s a three-time IHSA state medalist in the 100, taking fourth as a freshman and junior and fifth as a sophomore. She also was fourth in the 200 last spring in 2A.
McClendon is gearing up for the Public League finals May 10 at Hanson Stadium, followed by the sectional and state meets the next two weeks.
“I think I’m on track,” she said. “As long as I do what Coach tells me to do.”
And as long as she doesn’t have to run another distance race.