It was January 2007. Jamilla Janneh was retreating to the locker room following a basketball game at New Oxford Middle School when she was approached by track coach Jason Warner.
At 5-foot-7, the then-seventh grader stood out.
"You should really go out for the track team," Warner suggested.
Until then, Janneh hadn't given track a single thought -- aside from the timed mile during gym class.
"I ended up loving it," Janneh said of her first season. "It was kind of a trial-and-error thing. I figured I was actually pretty good at it, so I told myself I was going to stick with it."
Janneh rapidly evolved into a long-term project for then-assistant coach Chantal Williams, who helped shape her for the long, triple and high jumps.
Fast forward five years later.
The Temple-bound Janneh sits at the final doorstep of an illustrious four-year career at New Oxford.
Janneh earned a berth for the PIAA Class AAA meet in the triple, high, and long jumps. She captured a state bronze in the triple, landing her leap in 36 feet, 11 3/4 inches. She attained a personal best last season with a leap of 38-9 1/4 during a meet at South Western.
This season, Janneh has shifted her gaze toward eclipsing that leap, along with topping her personal records in the long jump (17-9) and the high jump (5-51/2).
"I want to keep going with my records. I want to make sure they're high enough so that they are not broken for a while," Janneh said. "At states, I want to be in the top three in all three jumps, and I feel like I'm capable of that."
Janneh has already sent the Colonials' schedule to Shemeka Marshall, Temple's assistant coach. Marshall, who starred as a long jumper at Rutgers and recruited Janneh, was a major factor in Janneh's choice of Temple over Rider and Lynchburg College.
Close friend and former Spring Grove standout Maxine Bentzel, now a sophomore hurdler at Temple, kept in contact with Janneh via Facebook. Bentzel co-hosted her and helped her get acclimated during her campus visit.
The versatility of Janneh has augmented the Colonials' sprinting unit. New Oxford lacks depth but features a three-headed monster with Janneh, pole vaulter Madisen Slagle and middle/long distance runner Kaylee Kubisiak.
Janneh placed seventh overall in the 100-meter race at the YAIAA championships last spring in 13.29 seconds.
"I was surprised about placing in counties in the 100 last season," Janneh said. "We weren't expecting it, but that's going to be another focus of mine."
Getting an early start on the season was essential. Plyometrics, extra time in the weight room and consistent bleacher workouts have helped Janneh prepare for the final stage of a high school career jump-started merely by coincidence.
In her final hurrah with the Colonials, Janneh looks to finish what Warner started.
"Knowing that I'm going to jump in college, my goals are really to capitalize more," Janneh said. "I want my peak to keep going up. I want to leave my mark."
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