Jacob Ridenhour became just the second person in school history to make an individual appearance at an NCAA Division III national championship according to Webster Athletics.
Jacob Ridenhour overcame obstacles and finished as runner-up in the 200-meter dash at the 2019 Division III NCAA track and field championships in May.
Ridenhour, a sprinter, recorded a school-record time of 21.07 seconds to finish the race in second place and earn national runner-up honors. This made Ridenhour the first Gorlok athlete to be All-American in men’s track, according to the athletic department.
Ridenhour said his successes almost didn’t happen due to injuries he sustained prior to this season. He said his doctor told him at the beginning of the season that he may have to take six weeks off with no running.
“I was very upset when I heard that from the doctor,” Ridenhour said. “I reasoned with her and my coach and decided that I wanted to do cross-training and then run on the weekend because I didn’t want to miss six weeks of meets.”
Ridenhour was again faced with an injury, this time at nationals. He said during the last 30 meters of the race he felt pain in his leg, but that didn’t stop him from running.
“I didn’t know instantly because the pain came right as I crossed the finish line,” Ridenhour said. “I kind of felt it, but I knew I wasn’t going to stop. I had so much adrenaline to catch the next guy in front of me.”
Ridenhour said after the race he learned he pulled his hamstring. He said adrenaline was the only reason he was able to run with an injured leg.
Ridenhour said out of all the things that happened to him that day, one of the most bizarre was when his sticker flew off his jersey and stuck to his face.
“I’m going around the curb and the sticker comes up and covers my eye,” Ridenhour said. “I grabbed it off my face and tried throwing it but it stuck to my hand so I held it the whole race”.
Ridenhour said this slowed down his movements and he instantly started to see runners pass him. He said he turned the situation into a positive one.
“That honestly probably motivated me more to push myself, which is why I think I pulled my hamstring,” Ridenhour said.
Ridenhour initially finished in third place but was moved to runner-up after another runner was disqualified for stepping outside the lines of their running lane too many times. He said once he finished the race, all that mattered was that he did it.
“I would say 75% was pure joy, but the other 25% was like, I can’t believe this has happened,” Ridenhour said.
Webster head track and field coach Nick Niehaus said Ridenhour went above and beyond to prepare for his historic season. He said it is amazing to see Ridenhour progress each season.
“Jacob in a lot of ways is a coach’s dream in terms of ‘coach says you do something and you do it,’” Niehaus said. “Athletes like him, people who really enjoy being on a team and having fun every day at practice, is what makes my job better and then makes team a lot more fun.”
Ridenhour’s girlfriend and training partner Meredith Sowers said she’d never seen someone work so hard. She said Ridenhour worked out six days a week and stayed on a clean diet in the offseason to help him prepare.
“Seeing him from his freshman year to his sophomore year how much he grew as an athlete in the offseason was amazing,” Sowers said. “So when regular season came back around we were all like, damn, that’s awesome.”
Ridenhour was convinced to run track his senior year of high school by Jersey Community High School head coach Harold Landon. Landon said he saw potential in him by watching him run in soccer and basketball. He said Ridenhour ended his short high school track career as one of the best runners.
“I knew that if he continued to run track at the next level he would see huge improvements because he was just tapping into his potential,” Landon said. “I am so proud of Jacob, not only is he a great athlete, he is even a better person.”
Ridenhour said he looks forward to improving this season. Once a two-sport athlete in soccer and track and field, Ridenhour said he has decided to focus on track.
“Looking back at it, I think I worked extremely hard,” Ridenhour said. “You can tell by the results my hard work paid off.”