Jesse Henderson, a junior hurdler from Benton, Mississippi, shattered the 60 meter hurdle school record for Mississippi State University during the University of South Carolina Indoor Open after undergoing full ankle reconstruction last March.
It all goes back to eighth grade at Yazoo County Middle School when Henderson was kicked off the high school's track team due to the strict grade policy. Even with this setback, Henderson did not stop. Freshman year arrived, and Henderson was able to join the team again. The rest was history, and the next stop was Mississippi State University.
"I knew that I was a great runner," Henderson said. " I found something that I was great in, so it was only right that I got myself together."
After attending summer track meets with the Peak Performance team, Henderson had gained much exposure. This encouraged him to reach out to MSU's track organization where he received astonishing intel.
"I reached out to Coach Silvey, and he emailed me back pretty quickly," Henderson said. "MSU was the only school that showed interest or even emailed back, so I am thankful to be here … Besides the huge ankle surgery, I have succeeded well since my arrival."
During the indoor meet hosted by USC on Feb. 13, Henderson broke MSU's men's track and field 60 meter hurdle record by a tenth of a second.
"Going into the race I was tied at fourth, and I was not expecting to break a school's record coming off of an injury," Henderson said. "I mean I just really was not expecting to be the highest record holder after this race, but not only did I break the record, I literally shattered it."
Coaches and trainers all seemed to think Henderson truly was fit to excel within the meet. Over the years, his hard work and dedication only grew stronger.
Chelsea Head, an MSU athletic trainer from Newman, Georgia, had no doubt in her mind Henderson could not get the job done. She has had the ability to watch him grow and thrive since his arrival on campus.
"Ever since Jesse was a freshman, we knew he had the ability to be better than he could have ever imagined," Head said. "Before the surgery, he made a promise with himself and his performance that he would not let the injury defeat him and that he would come back stronger and better than the year before."
"That summer, after the ankle surgery, he was able to do more functional exercises," Head said. "Jesse woke up every morning at 6:30 am and went through some of the hardest training that he had to mentally and physically committed to doing."
There is never a day that Henderson's character does not match his work ethic. Head was also able to share details about certain personal aspects of Henderson.
"Jesse brings a type of energy that no one could ever match," Head said. "Even on days where he doesn't feel like doing it, he finds something from deep within and manages to turn it."
Steve Thomas, a multi and vertical jumps coach from Mobile, Alabama, knew Henderson held all the necessities needed to succeed.
"I expected it," Thomas said. "Our sport is very measurable. When strength and speed improve, performance will always improve."
The indoor track and field coaching staff had great faith and expectations for Henderson. Thomas said the young hurdler is easily one of the top three athletes on the MSU campus.
"There is a term: assiduity. Assiduity means close and constant attention to what one is doing," Thomas said. "To be great at anything, this is a necessary characteristic. Jesse has this quality, and that is what makes him a great athlete."
Henderson was well aware of his ability to perform, but this was an unseeable moment. The hard work and dedication put into each week was released. Henderson ended up reaching the goal of qualifying for nationals despite all that it took for him to get to that point.
"My game plan going into this was to only qualify for nationals," Henderson said. "I just literally was not expecting that, but I just thank God for that." He continued to say, "I did not know how to react to it at all … It was indeed a bittersweet moment."