The Eldon High School junior is garnering track and field accolades, but that’s just part of her brillance
A dynasty represents the pinnacle of sporting greatness. To be referred to as a dynasty, one must be defined by dominance and continued success. However, the most important characteristic that correlates to a dynasty is the mark of a champion. This characteristic perfectly describes Eldon High School track star, junior Sara Rhine.
Rhine further enhanced her own personal dynasty by adding yet another successful season to her résumé. On May 31, the junior out-jumped her competition for the Class 3 high jump state championship. Consequently, she became the first ever state champion in the history of Eldon’s girls’ track team.
Her final leap of 5 feet, 7 3⁄4 inches also immortalized Rhine in the state record books.
She beat the previous record, held by Valarie Summa of Smithville since 2000, of 5-7 1⁄2 by the slimmest of margins.
Rhine’s success at state has come to no surprise in the Eldon community. This isn’t her first appearance in a state competition. Actually, this isn’t even her first state title. Unbelievably, this marked Rhine’s third consecutive high jump state title.
But wait – as if on cue – there’s more. Rhine’s track and field dynasty includes more than the high jump. Rhine competed at the state level in four different events, the maximum allowed amount for a single athlete. Along with the aforementioned high jump, her repertoire of events includes the long jump, the 100-meter hurdles, and the 300-meter hurdles.
Her winning ways continued with these other events. She placed third in the long jump and – as a first-year hurdler – placed fifth in the 100 hurdles and finished in the top 15 in the 300 hurdles.
“It feels great,” Rhine exclaimed happily of her accolades. “It’s something that I love to do and I’m blessed to be in this position. I’m proud of it because I worked hard for it so it was fun to achieve.”
By no means has the path to success been easy for Rhine. A champion - especially a reigning three-time champ like Rhine – instantly acquires the attention of their competitors. A champion turns into the hunted, which undoubtedly bumps up the pressure placed on Rhine to shine. Her ability to thrive under pressure has been her most notable improvement since her freshman campaign, according to Eldon girls’ track coach, Tobby Eldridge.
“Sara’s been a state champion since she was a freshman, so people expect her
to win,” Eldridge explained. “She keeps the outside noise tuned out and she understands it’s just about her performance. She focuses on her abilities and she does the best that she can. That’s what I’ve been most impressed with.”
Rhine agreed that she does experience pressure to perform well, but she remains her own biggest critic.
“There’s pressure that I put on myself,” Rhine explained. “Having already accomplished that feat of being a high jump champion, I felt like I had to win again in order for that to be my identity. It’s been a growing process for me to know that I’m doing this for fun. I’m going to try my best, and what happens will happen.”
While under intense outside pressure, Rhine has remained calm at sea. She’s contended and won multiple times at the highest level of competition. Rhine has left her mark on her team and the community for reasons other than her athletic expertise.
“She’s a great teammate and a great leader,” Eldridge said glowingly of his pupil. “But what she does for us on the athletic field, she does the same thing in the classroom. She does the same thing when she’s at church. She does the same thing when she’s around the community. That’s who Sara is. Whether she was a state champion or not, she’s way more valuable to our team than just being a winner in her event because of the character that she brings to the team. She’s not the type of person that would be content with just herself winning. She sets an example for our team based on teamwork, but she also sets an example for our team in character.”
Rhine has established a winning precedent during her tenure at Eldon High School, with the rest of the squad following her lead. Eldon’s girls track team won the Tri-County Conference championship title this season, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished in over 20 years.
As this hallmark track season ends, Rhine restlessly awaits next season to approach.
She’s already started preparing for her final high school season by setting new goals.
“In high jump, I’d like to get to new heights,” Rhine said. “I don’t want to limit myself, but I’d like to jump 5’10.” I would like to be a four time state champion in high jump and I’d like to place higher in my other events that I’d hopefully able to take to state. If it’s my last year of high jumping, I want to go out with a bang.”
Rhine’s collegiate future involves a switch from the track to the court. She has verbally committed to play basketball for Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
As a forward, she has already broken the 1,000 career total points barrier. Despite the athletic success, education remains Rhine’s primary focus. She plans to obtain a degree in Special Education from Drake.
An epic finish is surely in store for her track career, but Rhine has already established herself as one of the greatest athletes in Eldon High School history.