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Browne jumps into SEHS track record book
Riley Browne
Riley Browne clears the bar at 5’6” to set a new SEHS record (submitted photo)

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

The past two weekends have been pretty special for South Effingham’s senior Riley Browne.

On Feb. 25, her Game Day cheer squad won a state cheerleading championship in the Class 5A-6A division in Columbus.

Eight days earlier, Browne set a school track and field record with a leap of 5-foot-6 in the high jump at the Alley Invitational in Richmond Hill.

To put the jump in perspective, 5-6 could have won the Class 6A state championship last spring. Three girls cleared 5-6, so the title was decided by who made the height with the fewest misses.

“Honestly, it’s crazy to think you’ve gained four inches in one day,” Browne said. “I’ve been fortunate to work one-on-one with my coaches. Coach (Haywood) Ellison and coach (Rico) Campbell have supported me a lot.”

Browne broke the mark of 5-4 previously set by Whitney Jackson in 2013 and Kiunah Fye in 2014. Browne had never jumped higher than 5-2.

Browne came to the Mustangs program as a standout distance runner in middle school, but liked the adrenalin rush of high jumping.

“I like the heart-racing part,” she said.

And she doesn’t mind staying busy. During her four years at South, Browne has been on the Game Day cheer team. She played linebacker and running back on the flag football team.

The 18-year-old also competes in beauty pageants.

Browne runs the 100-meter dash and in the 4 X 100 and 4 X 200 relays.

“We started her in the hurdles, but in the high jump, I think she found her groove,” said Campbell, the boys and girls head coach. “Riley’s been having a really good two years in track. It started around region (last year), she’s been tearing it up.”

Campbell said Browne posted 4-8s and 4-10s as a sophomore. Then on a 30-degree day in Vidalia last spring, she jumped 5 feet. She equaled that jump at region to finish fourth, then 5-2 at Sectionals to be among the top eight to qualify for state.

At state, Browne finished tied for 13th with a jump of 5 feet.

“She just kept working and she has some competition from a sophomore Kimberlea Coppin (who jumps 5-2) who pushes her. Both are very dedicated,” Campbell said.

Browne has simple goals for the upcoming season.

“I definitely want to make it back to State,” she said. “Last year, I had a taste of being there. This year, I’d like to compete for a championship.”