By Ross Coyle
For Peninsula Daily News
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While athletes can endure sprains, broken bones or even concussions, the wounds left by the death of a loved one run far deeper and never quite heal.
So when McMullin began competing in track and field her freshman year at Sequim High School, the fresh memories of her recently deceased father, Brian McMullin, were difficult to keep in check.
“He was one of the most compassionate and kind people I know,” Jasmine McMullin said.
“He serves as an inspiration for me today.”
Her story of working through this difficult time in her life to excel as a state championship triple jumper netted McMullin the Inspirational Athlete Scholarship from CoachUp, an online business that matches private coaches and athletes.
The $2,000 award will go toward McMullin's winter term tuition at Western Washington University, where she competes as a triple jumper.
McMullin, a freshman, also will receive a $500 credit for a private coaching session with a CoachUp track and field coach.
McMullin said adjusting to college life has been unique, particularly with a varied schedule as well as track practices.
“I just started to adjust, then track started, and now I have a totally different schedule,” McMullin said.
McMullin's track and field career began on the track at Sequim High School, where her father would take her and her younger brother, Paul, to run almost every day during the summer.
Her father noticed her talent for track and field, and suggested several times that she had the potential to compete at the college level.
But one day in the late summer of 2010, Brian suffered a fatal heart attack while running alongside Jasmine.
The grief rocked McMullin, who had just begun her freshman year of high school.
“It was just really hard,” she said, “because me and him especially were really close, so I was really, really heartbroken.”
She used her new workload as an outlet for her emotions, allowing her schoolwork to distract her from grief.
“I didn't want to make a spectacle out of it when school started,” she said.
“I didn't discuss it with anyone except my closest friends.”
By the time track and field season rolled around, she wasn't sure that she was ready to revisit memories of her father.
She eventually was able to reconcile her feelings, realizing that competing would honor her father's memory.
“I guess I was ready to try it, I didn't want to forget about it,” she said.
“I mean, I love to do it, and it would just be even sadder if I didn't, if I forgot about everything.”
She said that the Sequim track team's friendliness and welcoming attitude were crucial to helping her make an easy transition to high school athletics, and if they hadn't been as friendly, she may have been reluctant to return the following year.
“I didn't feel like an outsider freshman year, which was so important,” she said.
“I was [part of] the team right from the start.”
One of McMullin's coaches, B.J. Schade, said that friendliness is characteristic of the track team. There aren't small clusters of the top athletes, he said, and this contributes to the closeness of the group.
“There's not that clique of the super-successful kids, [and] the not successful kids. They all treat each other with equal respect,” Schade said.
Their attitude encouraged her to stick with track, and senior Chase O'Niell got McMullin interested in the triple jump.
McMullin continued to run, but the triple jump and long jump became her top events.
Her moderately successful freshman year set her up to remain on track team throughout high school.
She attended state championships her freshman, sophomore and junior years, but each time it was only as an alternate.
Frustrated after being denied three chances to compete at state, she worked hard during the summer following her junior year and throughout her senior year to improve through weightlifting and conditioning with Schade.
McMullin's work paid off, and she found herself running and jumping at the 2A state championship meet earlier this year.
She also set a school record in the triple jump — 36 feet and 8.5 inches — as a senior.
Her soft-spoken demeanor belies a competitive streak, said Schade, who describes her competitive personality as one of serene determination instead of the stereotypical intensity and aggression of many athletes.
While on hill runs, Schade said, “We'd get to the steepest part of the hill and Jasmine would just look over at me, look me in the eye, and just take off.”
Even her music selections prior to competing — Phil Collins' “In the Air Tonight” — is more of a relaxing groove song than the dramatic and energized music often associated with sports.
Looking back on high school, McMullin said that the most profound lesson from her experiences has been to not allow grief to consume her life and to use sadness and depression to focus her energy into other activities.
“Keep your family close,” she said.
“You have to keep busy. I had to keep busy or else I would just have been a wreck — even more of a wreck.”
Instead of withdrawing and losing interest in activities, she used her father's memory as motivation to grow and excel and create a memorable finale to her high school years.
“I couldn't have imagined [senior year being] any better,” she said.
“It was just a great ending.”