The support Essence White gets from her family gave her the extra distance she needed to qualify for the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics next week.
“It was the first track meet this year that my mom went to,” she said, so for the occasion, White cleared 17 feet, 4.75 inches in the long jump.
That’s her personal best, and it was the second-place finish in the Pacific Association USATF Region 14 championship meet at Granada High School in Livermore last weekend.
Her mark among the top three in her event in the youth girls division secures a spot for Essence in the 42nd Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships, which will happen at Burke High School in Omaha, Neb., July 22 to 27.
For White, who just graduated from West Valley Christian Academy and turns 14 next month, it will be her second national meet. She qualified to compete in Baltimore, Md., two years ago and took seventh place in the long jump at that event.
All along her family has encouraged her to excel in the long jump and sprint events. She’s a member of the Northwest Express track and field club, founded 15 years ago by her father and coach, Ed White.
Essence White began to compete at age 5, and her older sister, Ebony — a sprinter, hurdler and long jumper at Sacramento State before she graduated two years ago — inspired the younger girl to get serious about the sport.
“I saw her always at practice running, so I’d run with her,” she said.
Ed White has been a track and field coach since 1962, after he competed as a high jumper at Ohio State University. He met his wife, Gwendolyn, when he interned as a coach for Mohawk High School in Columbus, Ohio, and she was one of the school’s sprinters.
Ed White said the club, which meets at Modesto Junior College, is open to all young athletes who want to compete in USA Track and Field events. USATF also includes members of Team USA, which is headed to the Summer Olympics in Beijing next month.