Eighteen-year-old Jamila Janneh may have just completed her first week of track practice at Temple, but she’s no stranger to the world of athletics. She’s the current record holder for the high, long and triple jump at New Oxford High School in Hanover, Pa. She ranked third in Pennsylvania for the triple jump, and she’s only a freshman.
“School and track are my life now,” Janneh said. “And I’m OK with that.”
Dealing not only with the stressful shift from high school to college, but also with the added difficulties of being a student-athlete, Janneh has a lot on her plate as the track season approaches.
The Temple News: How are you adjusting to life at Temple?
Jamila Janneh: I’d say I’m adjusting pretty well. I mingle with a lot of people and my classes are going well. Practice just started [last Monday] and that’s going good, too. A lot of good things are happening as of right now. I don’t live far from here – it’s a two-hour drive, tops. I can go home on a weekend and see my family. I hang out with my friends and most of my friends are on the track team. I definitely have a lot of time, which I like. And I’m excited for homecoming and all the activities Temple has for us. I’m mostly looking forward to my track season. I feel like I have a lot going for me and I’m excited to see what happens.
TTN: What was your motivation in choosing Temple?
JJ: Well, a girl named Maxine that I competed with told me about it. She said I should look into Temple, so I came to visit. I really love the city aspect of it. Where I’m from, it’s a small town with a lot of farms. There’s nothing going on and so I wanted the complete opposite. Temple is just close enough and it’s not too far. I love the atmosphere of it. My major is criminal justice, I might pick up a minor in psychology but [not] sports management – every athlete usually does something with sports. I’ve always been interested in psychology and something within law and this had a good balance. Track hasn’t affected any of that, it’s just something else I’m interested in.
TTN: How long have you been competing in track and what made you join?
JJ: This will be my seventh year. Actually, the high school track coach came up to me at a middle school basketball game and was like, “Hey, you’re tall. You should do track.” So I was like, “All right.” I tried it and ended up loving it.
TTN: How do you feel so far about Temple’s track program?
JJ: I really like the team. Everyone is so sweet, so nice, so welcoming. I felt like I was already on the team when I went on my visit. They brought me in with open arms and everything. And the coaches are great. They were both athletes, too. It makes it so much better because that means they know what they’re doing. [Assistant] coach [Shameka] Marshall was competing at the Olympic trials. That tells you she did something right.
TTN: How did it feel finding out you were third in the state for triple jump? What was your reaction?
JJ: Oh, God. That was awesome. I just remember as soon as I jumped my jump, I knew it was farther than what I had been doing. I pointed and looked at the board as they posted our standings and my coach [gave me the thumbs up]. It was so awesome. It was just a great feeling getting on the podium. Once I got up there, they were saying, “Jamila, Jamila, you got third place.” My parents were so happy. My mom was screaming. It was just such a great moment. I have other medals from other competitions, but when you get your state medal…It’s so much heavier, but it feels so much better. I loved it. I’m pretty sure I cried.
TTN: How does being an athlete compare with being a student?
JJ: Track is something that motivates me, not only doing well on the track, but it keeps me focused in school, too. I know if I don’t do well in school then I can’t compete or vice versa. You have to do well in school to be an athlete. Just because you’re an athlete doesn’t mean you get special privileges. Yeah, you have to go to tutoring and studying, but any other student could do that. They just want to make sure you get good grades. I like that push and I need that push to do well in the classroom.
TTN: Who or what is your main inspiration in pursuing your athletic dream?
JJ: Well, my favorite U.S. track sprinter is Allyson Felix. Even though she doesn’t jump, I just really like her. And I would say my main inspiration would have to be – and this is cheesy and everyone says it – my parents, just because they push me and my siblings so much. I have six other siblings, so we have a big family. The one thing my parents always said was, “Go to college. Make something of yourself.”
TTN: When was the moment you realized you were following the right path?
JJ: My junior year of high school I broke all of my high school’s jumping records. It made me realize how much better I could do, and then my senior year I did it again. I grew so much more each season it just made me keep going and keep doing more. It’s a great thing for me to do. I like staying fit and staying in shape and I love competition so it’s the two best things combined. I’m definitely not going to stop.
Jessica Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.