* Jahnelle Saunders set a new career-best time in the 60mH this weekend at the AAU Indoor Elite Championships
Photo Credit: Nolan Jez/MileStat
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For the last four years, Jahnelle Saunders has been building the kind of versatility that few in high school track and field ever quite display to full effect.
And as the 2021 high school indoor season comes to a close, the Hampton Bethel standout will finish US No. 9 in the 60mH (8.56) and US No. 8 in the long jump (19-8).
Here's the crazy part, though.
While Saunders might not find herself on any all-time lists to end the season, she very well could have been.
Based on the Virginia standout's year-end performances -- plus one career-best 800m performance, which we had to go back to 2019 to find -- Saunders had overall season-best PRs that could have landed her at US No. 5 all-time in the women's indoor penthalon with 3,923 points.
Only two girls athletes in high school history have broken 4,000 points in the pentathlon: Anna Hall broke the national record in 2019 at New Balance Nationals Indoor in 2019 with 4,302 points (she had three 4,000-plus point performances while in high school overall), while Kendell Williams scored 4,068 points in 2013.
If by looking simply at Saunder's PRs, she had the potential to at least approach that barrier. Her indoor PRs add up to 3,923, which would slot in as the No. 5 performance all-time. Hypothetically.
Saunders' High Ceiling
* Saunders did not run an 800m in 2021, so we took her best performance from 2019 to calculate her potential points draw
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Granted, we do have to keep one thing in mind when considering this notion: When competing in the multis, things don't always fall into place in every event. It's highly unlikely for athletes to secure five straight PRs en route to an overall performance for the record books.
But at the same time, by just looking at Saunders path -- and her big finish to 2021 -- it's reasonable to assume she had potential to eclipse 4,000 points over a national-level multis competition. Sometimes, things do fall into place in one event -- like Anna Hall's personal best 5 foot, 11.5 inch high jump mark at New Balance Nationals Indoor in 2019 -- and the points just start coming.
Saunders, the future Hampton University athlete, closed off her season with three straight 60mH performances under 8.70 seconds. She also added three straight long jump efforts over 19 feet.
If we went just by her high jump track record, Saunders had cleared 5-5 a total of 12 times over her career, including a PR of 5-8.5 in 2019.
While her shot put and 800m needed some work -- she owned a PR of 32-11.75 in the throws event and has barely run 800 meters over the course of her career -- her talent in those previous three events alone would have generated the kind of point totals that could elevate her into elite company.
So, in other words, Saunders just had one of those seasons that literally could have gone down in the record books. And even though it didn't, it would be hard to argue just how good she was.
Ending the season among the country's top 10 performers in two events is no small feat.
At the same time, though, Saunders was much more than that.
While few multis opportunities presented themselves late into the season, when development and training cycles peak, here's what we think:
The Virginia star no doubt has the highest potential of anyone in the United States to put down a legendary high school multis performance by the end of 2021.