Jesse Henderson’s family knew that he was going to be something special before they even met him.
“When Mama was pregnant with him you could see him jumping, flipping and running around in her stomach,” his older sister Ashley Henderson said. “He was the only child I’ve ever known who was already walking at seven months. At 10 months he climbed to the top of a ladder while Dad was working on the house.”
Jesse’s mother Mary Henderson also laughed at the memory of her son moving around inside her so much before he was born. She said he never slowed down once he arrived.
“We knew very early on that he had great potential,” Mary said.
His sister said even as a small child Jesse was already demonstrating the kind of drive that has resulted in him becoming a record-setting college athlete.
“We always knew he was going to be something,” said. “He had a pogo stick, and he just jumped and jumped and jumped. I got so sick of that pogo stick. He as always jumping and running. He put so much energy into it, and he turned out to be something amazing.”
Mary Henderson said she and her husband Jesse Sr. decided very early on that they were going to do whatever it took to support their son’s dream of becoming a track star. They often traveled great distances for him to compete in elite events.
“We promised to do whatever it takes to get him to where he needs to be,” Mary said.
Part of the process was enrolling Jesse in the Peak Performance Track Club in Madison, where he had more resources and specialized training. Coming from a school without a track and only a few hurdles to practice with, Jesse was excited to have the new opportunities.
“When Jesse came to us he saw that we have over 100 hurdles, and his eyes got so big when he walked up for the first time,” said Coach Dennis Groll. “”Working with Jesse was a real pleasure. He’s such a hard worker.”
All of the hard work and sacrifices has paid off.
At Yazoo County High School Henderson won three gold medals for state titles during his senior year. He was a three-time state champion in the 110 meter hurdles, and set a new 3A state record with a time of 14.03.
He earned a scholarship to Mississippi State University, where he has continued to perform at an elite level. Henderson set freshman records and broke the school record twice this year. Henderson overcame injury to return to the track better than ever.
On Friday Henderson participated in the Olympic trials in the 100 meter hurdles in Eugene, Oregon. He finished 17th in the event, just missing qualifying for the Olympics in Tokyo by two spots.
On Thursday a group of family, friends, former coaches and supporters gathered at Yazoo County High School to show support for the hometown hero.
“No one is more deserving of this,” said Yazoo County Athletic Director Joe Odom. “His success is a testament to his hard work and his dedication to his craft.”
Henderson expressed his gratitude for the hometown support.
“I want to thank everyone for all the support,” Henderson said after the trials. “I made it this far because of you all and Christ along my side. I’ve learned so much this season, and I’m grateful for all the lessons. I’ll be back.”
Groll said he thinks Henderson will get his chance to compete in the Olympics.
“He’s still very young, and the first time they go to the Olympic trials they are usually nervous,” Groll said. “They are more comfortable and able to relax and concentrate on performing when they get there a second time.”