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Wanda Marvin said she didnt know what she would have done this spring without Skype.
She wasnt worried about herself, but for her husband, Staff Sgt. Johnathan Marvin, who is serving the last days of a one-year deployment to Afghanistan.
If not for Skype, Johnathan could have missed the state championship wrestling match of his stepson, Preston Steen. If not for Skype, he could have missed seeing his stepdaughter, Jasmine Steen, sign a track and field scholarship with Brenau University in Gainesville, Ga.
Skype has been our friend, Wanda said.
Marvin is feeling pretty good right now despite the absence of her husband, who will return in July, particularly because their two oldest children, both recent graduates of Chattahoochee County High School, have been making headlines in local newspapers.
Preston, the oldest, who won the Class A state wrestling title, will sign today with Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga. Jasmine, who won the long jump at the Class A girls state championship in Albany, Ga., was named by the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer as the All-Bi-City Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year on June 10.
Its pretty great to have two in one year do so well, Marvin said. They push each other. When he won state in wrestling, she was there. When he got his hat and T-shirt, she said, I want mine. When he got his state ring, she said, I want one of those too.
Jasmine also finished second at state in the triple jump. The story of her remarkable season is just one of several on this years track and field team, which finished third overall at state. Obstacles were hurdled both on and off the field.
Junior slump to senior jump This spring allowed Jasmine to build closer relationships with her brother and Chattco track and field coaches Janele Deloatch and John Pitts, who she ran under for all four years of her high school career.
Jasmine said the difference between her senior year and freshman year was her desire to compete. As a freshman, she said, Track was more of a punishment than something I wanted to do. I started just so I could get out of the house and keep from getting into trouble.
She improved as a freshman, as well as a sophomore, but in her junior year, she said she took a step backward. She couldnt figure out why. Jump after jump, she would scratch and it carried over to the 2011 state meet.
But watching her brother, who is on the boys track and field team, become the schools all-time leader in wrestling wins on his way to a state title, gave her renewed motivation, she said.
If you walked through the halls and sat in the classrooms at Chattco, unless you hear roll call, you may never realize that Jasmine and Preston are siblings.
When were in school, we dont talk at all, Jasmine said. Its like we dont know each other. But when it comes to sports, I love to watch him wrestle. He gives me advice and I cheer him on, so its back and forth. Wanda said Jasmine and Preston continue to work out together even after graduation. They plan to remain close, as their colleges are only 24 miles apart.
Jasmine said having Preston on the track team kept her motivated.
Hes not like, You did great, she said. He says, You can do better.
Pitts, her long jump coach, said he noticed from the first practice of the season that Jasmine was different.
Knowing what she went through in her junior year and coming back in her senior year you just worry about her mentally, Pitts said. But from day one when we started practice, she showed a renewed spirit. She wanted it. I knew she was ready.
Jasmine, who stands 5 feet, 1 inch, said she beat her personal record for the long jump during the first district meet of the season by 2 or 3 feet. On March 13, she set a new personal record again with a jump of 17 feet, 10 inches. At the state meet, she jumped 17-7.
I dont know why Im good at jumping, she said. Couldnt even tell you. Half the people out there are really tall. One of the girls, about 6 feet, said, To be so little, you can really jump.
And jumping wasnt all she did. Jasmine also ran the 200-meter dash, the 400 and the 4x100 relay. She had been running the 100, but moved to the 200 for the first time this year. Deloatch said that was a key factor in improving her long jumps.
She became a leader on the team, Deloatch said. Shes been open to trying different events and has gotten better in every event weve placed her in.
I really believe that the change in her speed work pushed her to the top in the long jump and the triple. Your takeoff speed is what gives you the ability to jump.
Surprise Inspiration As her senior season progressed, Jasmine started looking more and more like her junior year. She never came close to jumping 17-10 again until the state tournament.
I started off the season great but it just started going downhill, she said. My legs got tired and it was hard for me to jump. By the time I got to region, I was already nervous. I was supposed to place first in both my events the long jump and triple jump but I finished second. I was scratching and missing the mark.
She said Pitts pulled her aside to talk to her. The 58-year-old coach showed her through his shirt the heart catheter he had to deal with every day. He had been on dialysis for over a year. Jasmine was the first student to find out.
I hadnt told any of the kids I was on dialysis, Pitts said. They knew I missed some days, but they didnt know why.
I told her (the meet) wasnt life or death. Its still a game and you need to enjoy yourself.
From that point, Jasmine said she was jumping for my coach.
When she jumped 17-7 to win state, Pitts said the moment was hard to describe.
You work through up and downs and then see your work pay off, he said.
Overcoming obstacles Pitts wasnt the only coach who continued to inspire Jasmine and her teammates, despite battling personal grief. If you didnt know her, you would have never known, Marvin said about Deloatch, whose mother, Jeanette Harmon, passed away days before the season began after a 10-year battle with lung cancer.
While her mother was in the hospital, Deloatch said she tried to balance it all. She would teach, coach and then visit her mom. Sometimes, she had to stay at the hospital all day.
But even her mothers passing didnt keep Deloatch from coaching she said it was what her mother would want her to do, and that her faith in God carried her through it.
My mom loved what I was doing, she said. She loved that I was coaching she was proud of that.
After she passed, I knew that for those of us still living, we still have to live. So we kept the ball rolling on our season.
The Ledger-Enquirer also named Deloatch as its All-Bi-City Girls Track and Field Coach of the Year. And it was undoubtedly coaching that led the school to a third-place finish at the state meet.
It wasnt the practice facilities the team didnt have any. The best thing that could be said about the long jump box was that it did have sand. Jasmine said it wore on her ankles, but that didnt keep her from practicing at home. Wanda said Jasmine would place two cones apart from each other in the street and see if she could jump from one to the other.
Deloatch said the team measured out exchange zones and mileage by hand in the schools circular parking lot. People dont believe me when I tell them this until they come to the school, she said. When she told other coaches at state, They laughed and said, You have to be kidding.
Hard work realized And yet, despite only starting the year with 15 girls, Deloatch sent more than half the team to state. The Lady Panthers finished third in the 4x100; Karaysha White finished fifth in the long jump; Shanila Chapman finished fifth in the triple jump; and Jasmine also finished fifth in the 200.
Dedication, hard work and placing the team first with a minimal squad made the difference, Deloatch said.
We had one of the smallest squads in our region, and through all those (obstacles) we were still able to win. It says a lot about the caliber of the young women we had on our squad this year.