Four years ago, an Edwardsville High School freshman named Emmonnie Henderson burst on to the metro-east sports scene like few had before.
She brought an unmistakable flair for the dramatic that almost all elite athletes seem to possess. One of the top dual sport athletes ever to compete in the Southwestern Conference, Henderson was not only one of the best high school basketball players in the country, but also one of the best in the nation in both the shot put and discus.
That flair was never more evident than at Henderson’s final high school event last spring, the Class 3A girls state track and field meet at O’Brien Stadium in Charleston.
Henderson not only became a rare four- time state champion in the shot put on that late day in May, but with her winning toss of 50-feet, 9 1/2-inches, she shattered the previous mark of 49-11 1/2 set by former Carlinville standout Kelsey Card in 2011.
Later in the afternoon, and on her final high school attempt, Henderson won her third discus state title and seventh state track championship in all, with a winning throw of 156-7.
“I always want to do my best and up until that point in the competition, I hadn’t done that,” Henderson said after winning the title. “I was glad I was able to do well for my team. Our goal coming in was to repeat.”
But unlike what happened in 2012, the Tigers fell short in the team competition, finishing with 68 1/2 points, 10 1/2 points fewer than (Frankfort) Lincoln-Way East.
Despite the disappointment, Henderson left Eastern Illinois University that day with her head held high and two more state championship medals.
Henderson, who was chosen as the Gatorade Track and Field Athlete of the Year in Illinois, now heads to the University of Louisville, where she will compete in both basketball and track, knowing that she ended her high school career as one of the best ever.
“I feel like I accomplished a lot and left a legacy here,” Henderson said. “I love the competition of high school track, but I’m glad it’s over. I’m ready to attend college and I’m looking forward to new challenges.”
By winning both the shot put and discus state titles for the third straight season, Henderson also captured the honor of being the Belleville News-Democrat Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
Henderson also won the honor as the Class 3A-4A Basketball Player of the Year in March. With Henderson, a first-team all-state selection leading the way, the Tigers went 27-0 in the regular season, going unbeaten in the SWC for a fourth straight year, and advanced to the Class 4A Normal West Sectional title game.
On the track, Henderson had no rivals this season as she combined with junior Aaliyah Covington to give Edwardsville the state’s top discus/shot put duo.
That combination made Edwardsville nearly unbeatable in dual meets and major invitationals. But at the 2013 Southwestern Conference Meet, O’Fallon pulled an upset.
Using their depth on the track, the Panthers were able to nip the Tigers for the league title.
The title was even more impressive considering, because with Henderson and Covington combining for big points, O’Fallon faced a large deficit practically before the meet began.
“We knew we had to make up the points Edwardsville got in the field events on the track, But making up that many is hard to do,” Panthers coach Neil James said. “Fortunately at conference everything went our way on the track and our kids made up those points on the track.”
James praised Henderson’s overall talent.
“The thing that impressed me most about Emmonnie was how consistent she was,” James said. “She performed her best in the big meets. My athletes always commented on how much fun it was to compete against her.”
With her consistency, strength and talent, Henderson will head to Louisville later this summer to begin her college basketball and track careers.
Henderson said last fall that she plans on being red-shirted in track at Louisville this season.