High school ultimatum leads Sac State track star to scholarship

Jabari Reynolds II looks to final season and reflects on career


Brandon Bailey

Sacramento State’s Jabari Reynolds II walks back to drill following 10×10 100-meter warm-up on the track at Sac State on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Jabari has the fifth fastest 200-meter time in Sac State history at 21.81 seconds in 2020.

Brandon Bailey

Sac State sprinter Jabari Reynolds II started his high school career as a two-sport athlete playing basketball and running track for Ayala High School until he was given an ultimatum his junior year by his high school basketball coach: choose between the track and the court. 

He chose the track, a decision that would later help him land a scholarship as a walk-on. Once Reynolds made the decision to give up basketball, he dedicated most of his time to track with his high school head coach Jeffrey Allen. 

“My track coach was very inviting. He didn’t care if you did two sports, three sports, he was just happy you were out there,”  Reynolds said. “So I liked him better, he believed in people, and actually uplifted his athletes.” 

Allen mentioned that once Reynolds’ high school junior year started, Allen trained Reynolds full time over the summer and fall leading up to the season, and that’s when Allen saw the shift in talent. 

“Mentally he always was there, he always had the mentality that he was going to work hard,” Allen said. “He’s not somebody who you would ever have to twist his arm to get him to train, he’ll twist your arm to get you out there to work with him.” 

Unlike most, Reynolds started off as a jumper and gradually turned into a sprinter. His main two events were long jump and triple jump, but his natural ability to sprint was obvious to Allen, and he said he knew that once Reynolds got to Sac State, they would turn him into a sprinter. 

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Sacramento State track athletes Dennis Strelchik (left) and Jabari Reynolds II hold medicine balls while lifting their legs over hurdles on the track for practice at Sac State on Thursday, Feb, 18, 2021. Jabari ran the 60, 200, and 400-meter during the 2020 season.
(Brandon Bailey)

Reynolds has qualified for the Big Sky Championship every year since he was a freshman, and has consistently broken personal records as he’s developed over the years. He is now heading into his final outdoor season as a sprinter at Sacramento State.

“My biggest accomplishment was scoring at conference because I wasn’t projected to score, and the fact that I did, I was very proud of myself,” Reynolds said. “I trained the whole year to do that, and I’m happy that I saw my results come from the training.”

Although Allen foresaw the future, for Reynolds, his freshman year was moreso a learning experience for himself. He tried multiple events as a sprinter and found out that his best event was the 400-meter race. 

Reynolds said that Sac State assistant coach Kimberly Miller was the first coach that really helped his development along the way. Reynolds said that she taught him the basics of running, showing him how to get faster and helping increase his endurance, but the coach that laid out the blueprint for him was Kenny McDaniel. 

“Coach Mac laid out a foundation for how I’m supposed to run, having confidence when I run, and just believing in yourself,” Reynolds said. 

McDaniel has noticed Reynolds’ development as a sprinter and as a vocal leader since the two years that he has been able to coach at Sac State. 

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Sacramento State sprinter Jabari Reynolds II runs the men’s 100M sprint where he finished first at 10.73s. He also finished first in men’s long jump at 6.62 meters at the Tri-meet against UC Davis, Nevada, and Sacramento State at Hornet Stadium February 27th, 2021. (James Fife)

“Every week, I’ve seen him grow since I’ve been here,” McDaniel said. “He’s more vocal, more confident and well-rounded as a person.”

McDaniel said Reynolds can potentially be one of the top sprinters in the country this year.

COVID-19 forced Jabari and the rest of his team to adapt the way they practice. The team has so far been practicing in pods, so the social interaction has been limited between Reynolds and his teammates, which he said has been the most difficult part to adjust to during these times.

“Luckily we have still been able to get quality work in, it’s just been from a distance,” Reynolds said. “The throwers stay with the throwers, male sprinters stay with male sprinters, and female sprinters stay with female sprinters.”

He plans to pave the way and set the example for the underclassmen and freshmen following his footsteps. 

“My goal is to place at top three at conference, go to regionals, and just set an example for the freshmen and underclassmen.” Reynolds said.