Science Hill got more mileage and records out of Jenny than Tommy Tutone did.
Jenny Vonderfecht Parkhurst lettered once in volleyball, twice in cross country and three times in basketball, where she eventually was a starting wing.
But she singled out track and field her senior year, and doubled her pleasure triple jumping. Vonderfecht Parkhurst came into her own in the triple jump as a junior in 1997 when the TSSAA began including the event in the state meet.
She won the state the initial year with a triple jump of 38-1 3/4, and finished first again the following year with a new record of 38-3 1/2.
Ernest Hill, her coach at Science Hill, was not surprised to see her conquer the state. He said Vonderfecht Parkhurst and teammate Kristen Truman were tireless workers.
“Jenny and Kristin used to practice on the weekends two and three hours,” said Hill, who has coached a dozen state champions in the jumps, including Dobyns-Bennett alum Gerald Sensabaugh. “They would practice every day after practice another hour, running that Pepsi hill (beside Freedom Hall).”
Hard work was infectious around Hill.
“My favorite memories about track were all the great times I had with my teammates and coaches – in particular, Coach Hill and Kristen,” Vonderfecht Parkhurst said via email. “Coach Hill was a great coach and always took the time to work with us and took extra time on the weekends for practice. He always made sure we weren’t too hard on ourselves, because we were really competitive and did not like to lose or (not) do our best.”
Hill compared Vonderfecht Parkhurst’s dedication to that of another ’Topper state champion triple-jumper, JaKeith Hairston.
“Jenny and JaKeith just took it up and it became part of them,” Hill said. “Once you get athletes to take an event on and say ‘This is a part of me,’ then the training part is easy.”
Vonderfecht Parkhurst finished second at state in the long jump as a junior. She was the Watauga Orthopaedics Most Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year in track and field and Science Hill’s most outstanding field performer in 1998. That season included winning the triple jump at the prestigious Volunteer Classic at Tennessee, where she returned to compete in college.
Truman was still jumping at Science Hill part of that time, and she set a meet record in the triple jump at the Volunteer Classic in 2000 (37-3).
“Kristen was a great friend and motivator,” said Vonderfecht Parkhurst, who has two degrees and qualified for the National Scholastic Championship while at Science Hill in 1997. “It was always nice to have your best competition around to practice with and make me better. We always had a great time traveling, too. ”
Voderfecht Parkhurst is still traveling and pushing herself. She met her husband, Nathan, at UT. He was a pole vaulter. This past fall, they ran the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Relay in Disney World, which wouldn’t surprise anyone who knew Vonderfecht Parkhurst when she was dashing toward the sand in high school.
“I’d like have a dollar for every time we ran up that Pepsi hill,” Hill said. “Jenny Vonderfecht was just relentless.”