WESLEY CHAPEL — If it weren't her last name, it would be the perfect nickname.
Always friendly, a bit charming and even limping around with a slight muscle pull, happy.
Jasmine Pleasant is definitely that.
"I'll remember her smile more than anything else," coach Kristi Frye said.
It's some smile, because Pleasant has given her coach much more to remember than that.
Thursday night at the district meet, she won the 100 meters (again) and the 200 (again) and made up a deficit on the final leg of the 4x100 to win (yep, again).
It was the kind of speedy consistency for which Pleasant has become well-known.
Since stepping onto the track at Wesley Chapel, she has been a force, starting slow but always finishing strong.
Unbeaten in Pasco County in the 100 and 200 the past two seasons (with Sunshine Athletic Conference and district championships emphasizing the point) and the kind of anchor on the 4x100 that can cover for slower teammates when needed, Pleasant has been money.
And to think that after last season, she contemplated cashing out.
It was during a photo shoot at a park in Land O'Lakes, while munching on a cheeseburger, that she revealed her track career might be over.
"Are you crazy?" said Zephyrhills' Sederrik Cunningham, whose speed had helped get him a college scholarship.
Not crazy. Just confused. Truth is, Pleasant wasn't sure she wanted to run in college, so why not just quit now and try something else?
Frye told Pleasant to worry about running in college when she, well, got to college. But stop now, in high school, to toss away doing what you're best at for your senior year, a year you'll never get back?
Come to think of it, maybe Cunningham was asking the right question.
"I don't know. I just felt like I was going to be alone," Pleasant said. "All the girls I had been running with had graduated. I felt like it was just me. I think I was scared."
Pleasant was inundated with dissenting voices. Eventually, Mom got through.
"She said when God blesses you with a talent, you use it," Pleasant said.
Confessing to being "lazy" in practice, Pleasant recommitted to the sport and feels like she has fallen in love with it all over again. She has become a team leader, trying to infect others with her renewed enthusiasm and work ethic.
"You know how it is, when you imagine not having something, you don't know what you had," she said.
Instead of always coming in last during the team's 500-meter training runs, Pleasant decided she'd run at the front this year. Those friends who left? She decided to replace them, helping the younger runners.
"You could tell when the season started, she was ahead of where she was last year," Frye said.
Next year, Pleasant will try to walk on at the University of North Florida.
She tweaked her left leg in a hard-fought win in the 4x100 on Thursday night, and afterward she limped around the infield.
She knows bigger challengers and faster runners await in the coming weeks, but she plans to make it back to state for a fourth straight year.
"I like the challenges. I need to be pushed; push me and I can do great things," she said, and then looking down at her sore leg, added "even if I have to limp the whole way at state, I'm finishing. I'm going to finish."
Then it was off to a victory lap with her teammates, and despite the soreness, she tried to stay where she always seems to be.
In front and smiling.
John C. Cotey can be reached at (813) 909-4612 or email@example.com.
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