The heart of a champion

Illness slows but does not stop state champion Rolonda Jumbo

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

MESA, Ariz., May 17, 2012

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(Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)

Chinle's Rolonda Jumbo leads the Division III 1,600-meter run May 11 at the state track meet in Mesa, Ariz. Jumbo took first place with a time of 4:57.83.

A fter each lap in her 1,600-meter run last Friday afternoon, Rolonda Jumbo checked her pace.

The Chinle High senior, who spent many years training for this, wanted to break the all-time Arizona prep record of 4:49:11 set by Sara Gorton of Mountain Pointe.

And after the first two laps, she was on pace to do that but in the back of her mind she was hoping that a nagging bacterial infection wouldn't betray her.

And yet she was still trying to go after the record despite the effects of strep throat.

Nonetheless, she kept going and on her third and fourth laps she was still within reach as the crowd became vocal inside the Mesa Community College track field.

In the end, though, the strep throat she contracted early last week sapped her energy as she crossed the finish line in 4:57.83 at the Arizona Division III state track.

Jumbo had another chance to break that record at the Meet of Champions, held yesterday in Phoenix. At press time, however, results were not available.

"I was planning on going after that record," said Jumbo, who spoke with a raspy voice. "My goal was to beat it even though my throat was bothering me. I just wasn't ready to do that today."

Besides being diagnosed with strep throat, Jumbo also had an ear infection to contend with. But her willingness to compete didn't surprise her coach, Shaun Martin.

"She is the perfect example of the heart of a champion, no matter the circumstances," Martin said. "She still wanted to go after not just the division three state record.

"That was the goal before she had strep throat," he added. "Just because she got that sickness didn't mean that she was not going to go after it."

Incidentally that win on Friday was her 10th state title and on Saturday she added the 3,200-meter crown to her list of achievements as she crossed the finish line in 10:37.52, just 22 seconds off the all-time record.

That kind of performance sets her apart from all the other runners and her status as the best Native American high school runner will hardly ever be challenged, said Martin.

"I don't know what the fastest Native American has gone in the 1,600- or 3,200-meters in high school but I would say her PR in both the mile (4:54) and two-mile (10:34) are the fastest," he said. "She's probably got the most sub-5-minute miles than any other Native American has turned in."

Next season, Jumbo will run for the Northern Arizona University cross-country team on a full-ride scholarship. She signed with the school a few months back after receiving many offers, which included a handful of Division I programs.

"They are one of the most consistent programs in the country and that's why she chose that school," Martin said. "And the coaches are excited to be able to work with her and, hopefully as she continues to mature as a person, she'll mature as an athlete as well."

And with the performances that she's turning in, Martin believes that she'll make an immediate impact.

"She's going to bring a lot to that program," he said. "That program is young and even though that program recruited some high quality athletes, Rolonda is going to step in there and immediately be one of their scorers."

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