For three years Jasmine Gibbs' major opponent has been frustration.
One of the fastest runners in the state, the El Camino (Oceanside, Calif.)
athlete long jumped 19 feet, 9 inches as a sophomore, certain that the 20-footer was just a leap away. While 19 feet became passe', 20 was like an invisible brick wall.
"Actually, I've had a lot of 20 foot jumps in both meets and practice," said Gibbs, who broke through in a big way to take the national lead at 20-11 in her league championships. There was no wind gauge at the meet so it's not recognized as a San Diego Section record.
But she is considered the national leader under any conditions.
Gibbs went on to explain that many of those 19-6 and 19-9 jumps would easily have been 20-footers if they were measured from where she took off. She and the 8-inch takeoff board have had a life-long adversarial relationship.
"The 20-11 felt like any other jump but this time I hit the board," explained the senior who is headed for Kansas State University. "I heard the crowd go ‘whoa,' and thought it was a good jump. Yes, now that the barrier is broken I'm looking for a 21-footer before I graduate.
"The thing is, I try to use my speed too much and my dad (John) has been trying to get me to run under control. Last summer it finally hit me what he was saying."
John Gibbs was a quality athlete at rival Oceanside High where he is still coaching. He set the school vertical jump record of 40 inches. But he also tutors his daughter, who got her speed from her mother, Candice, a former sprinter.
"She has the best vertical of any jumper I've seen," says John. "She plays basketball (all four years of high school) and can almost grab the rim. All she needed to do (to reach 20 feet) was hit the board."
So what happens when Oceanside meets El Camino in a dual meet—especially since as a freshman she went to Oceanside but then moved in with her mother as a sophomore because she believes the newer district school has better academics?
"Nothing," says John matter-of-factly. "I always coach kids the same, telling them to do the best they can do. If they're on my team or the other, it doesn't matter. I want them to do their best."
How far and fast can Gibbs go? We'll find out this weekend at the San Diego Section championships and if she advances at the CIF State Championships the following week in Clovis.
"We're obviously now looking for that 21-footer," said John. "A week ago I would have told you her best event was the 100, where I believe she can run 11.5 at state, but now I'm not sure. The 20-11 was a little surprise but you knew it would eventually happen."
The 20-11 is the best in San Diego under all conditions but without a wind gauge it can't count as a record.
Whose standard is she chasing? In 1984, a young talent named Yolanda Gail Devers of Sweetwater High (National City, Ca.) hit 20-feet-7 and the mark has withstood all challengers for 28 years. Gail Devers went on to win three Olympic gold medals as a hurdler and sprinter.
As for the sprints, Gibbs currently leads the San Diego Section 100 at 11.74 and the 200 at 24.62. She has three medals from her previous state championships but none are gold—something she plans to change this time.
Her El Camino coach, Billy Isles, has no doubt she'll do just fine in Clovis the first weekend in June.
"Besides her speed and athleticism, she's a competitor," says Isles. "It doesn't matter if it's practice or a meet, she always competes hard. Once we had an easy meet so I told her just to run to win and she said, ‘no, no, no, I want a good time.' If anything, she's too hard on herself."
But her own teammates are pushing her. El Camino High could have three 20-footers by season's end if Miche Scott (19-9½) and Tamika Brazzel (19-2) continue to improve.
What about the 200?
"I don't like the 200, that's one event I hope to drop at K-State," she says seriously, shaking her head. "I like the relay because it warms me up for the long jump but not the 200...not at all."
The only this she likes with a 2 and an 0 in it, obviously, is the long jump.