Jamila Janneh was happy when she finally got some real competition.
The junior high and triple jumper’s track & field career began with a chance meeting, a meeting that would start Janneh on her path to a collegiate career.
After her high school’s track & field coach, Eric Werner, urged her to start running during a school basketball game, Janneh put aside her own personal doubts and insecurities when she decided to take her coach’s word.
“He said I should try it out, and I tried it out in the seventh grade, and I’ve been running since,” Janneh said.
Janneh grew up in New Oxford, Pennsylvania, a place she describes as a “small, boring town.”
Once she reached high school, Janneh began practicing and performing in the triple jump, an event she said was not available to compete in while attending middle school.
As she practiced and began competing when she reached the high school ranks, Janneh found herself dominating the event.
“In high school, it wasn’t until [the PIAA district and state championship meets] that I really got some real competition,” Janneh said. “It was fun, but at the same time I had expectations for myself. … am I performing to what I expected to perform for that meet?”
Sometime during her sophomore year, Janneh began to consider her future in track & field, wondering where her athletic talents could take her.
As time progressed, she began to draw interest from the collegiate level, but never heard from Temple. In fact, Janneh said, her ultimate collegiate choice was nowhere near her initial list.
“I wasn’t looking into Temple at all,” Janneh said. “Somebody who ran on the team, [former hurdler Maxine Bentzel], said ‘We need jumpers, you should look into us!’ She was from my area and so I was like, ‘Oh, I guess I’ll look into it and see what it is.’”
“I filled out the questionnaire and everything, and I came on a visit and I fell in love with Temple,” Janneh added. “I called my mom while on the visit and told her I was going here.”
Now a Division I athlete and one of Temple’s standout performers, Janneh has continued to assert her dominance in the sport of track & field. Janneh holds the outdoor triple jump record of 40 feet, 9 inches, which she broke twice in her sophomore year.
In the first indoor meet of the year at Haverford, Janneh took first place in the triple jump with her mark of 39-4.
After a four-week hiatus from competition during winter break, Janneh returned strong, bringing in another first-place finish at the Terrapin Invitational with a mark of 38-7.
She qualified for the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Championships with a seventh-place finish in the triple jump last Saturday at the Princeton Tiger Open.
Janneh said she was able to maintain her level of fitness despite being away from her team during the winter session.
“I didn’t really have access to a lot of facilities or anything like that,” Janneh said. “My neighborhood at home is mountains and hills, so I would go run in my neighborhood. I would do my running workouts in the gym on the treadmill and try to see how I could switch it up, or do bike workouts and stuff like that.”
Janneh’s jumping workouts in practice are typically overseen by assistant coach Shameka Marshall, who said she has been working with Janneh since she was a freshman.
“As a freshman, she was already talented, so we knew it was there but there [were] a lot of things we needed to get in place technique-wise,” Marshall said. “At the end of last year, I think she was really connecting a lot with the technique we had been doing. She understands the events a lot better now and she herself, I think, matured a lot over the summer. That makes all the difference.”
Coach Elvis Forde praised Jamila’s dedication, but said she underestimates herself at times.
“Her work ethic is fantastic in regards to where she wants to go,” Forde said. “She is one of those athletes on our team that has all the potential to go further than what she has achieved so far. One of the things I am trying to get her to understand is that she has to believe in herself a whole lot more than anybody else. I think she is a much better athlete than she gives herself credit for.”
Despite her productive streak, Janneh said she is still remaining humble and keeping everything in perspective.
“I feel really strong about this season, especially just wanting to capitalize off of what I did last year because I ended on a good note,” Janneh said. “Although winning is awesome, I’m still thinking about the bigger picture and what’s coming down the road for me.”
Tyler DeVice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org