WEST FARGO — Jasmine Williams was an eighth-grader when West Fargo’s track and field coaches brought her up to varsity. It was exciting for Williams, but also daunting.
She knew exactly what she was facing.
Williams, now a junior, went toe-to-toe with some of the top sprinters and middle-distance runners in North Dakota her first year on varsity. The loaded field was filled with veterans, including twin sisters Rose and Roseline Gaye of Fargo Davies.
“I remember just a very scared girl who was pretty overwhelmed being put in that position,” West Fargo head track and field coach Darin McKinnon said. “When she came up, we had her run in some relays, but she was scared.”
Williams placed sixth in the 200 meters at the Class A state meet as an eighth-grader in 2018. She admits she was slightly intimidated by the big-name Gaye sisters.
Rose, who was named the North Dakota Senior Athlete of the Year, won the 100, 200 and 400 at the state meet as a senior in 2018. Roseline took second to her sister in the 100 and 200 that year, and was a part of the state-championship winning 400 and 800 relay teams.
“It was very scary going against them, but fun,” Williams said.
“It’s gotta be pretty intimidating at that age,” McKinnon said. “We just wanted to give her a taste of varsity track and field, and certainly she has taken that and run with it.”
There’s nothing apprehensive about Williams anymore. She emerged as one of the state’s top sprinters following a stellar freshman season, gaining confidence on the way.
“Having to run with the Gaye twins my eighth-grade year got me prepared for more competition,” Williams said. “Freshman year, when the girls who I was expecting to be as fast as the Gaye twins weren’t, it kind of gave me the confidence that I could beat them. I don’t think I gained any confidence until freshman year.”
Williams solidified herself as a dominant force in the sprints as a freshman in 2019. She won her first state title that year, using a burst down the last stretch to finish the 200 with a state-championship winning time of 25.70 seconds. Williams came just .06 seconds shy of winning a second title that year in the 100.
Williams is confident, but humble. She’s aware of what she’s accomplished, but not satisfied.
“Even though she’s a state champion, she still knows there’s more that can be learned,” McKinnon said. “She’s very open to having us give any extra help in any way. She knows you have to be on your game every single meet, every single race.”
Williams earned an invite to compete in the 200 meters special event at the Howard Wood Dakota Relays last weekend in Sioux Falls, S.D. She placed sixth (26.33) in a field with the top mid-distance runners and sprinters across the region. Williams was the only North Dakotan in the 200 besides alternate Cece Deebom of Davies.
“It didn’t go as well as I wanted them to, but it was a really fun experience,” Williams said of the Howard Wood Relays. “I think I had a really off day. I burned out too soon, and that usually never happens. I don’t really know what it was that made me do that. I just hope to get the experience next year and do better.”
Williams is hungrier than ever for success this season, McKinnon said. The defending state champion in the 200, Williams knows she has a target on her back. But the competition brings out her best.
“There’s always going to be those who are looking to outbest you. I think she puts a lot of extra pressure on herself but at the same time, she also realizes too that that’s just something that kinda comes with being a state champion,” McKinnon said. “She’s really welcomed that and she’s ready to compete at each and every meet. She doesn’t like to get beat.”
Williams put in work at Dynasty Performance Training last summer after her sophomore season was canceled in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. She showed a few signs of rust when she got back on the track this season for the first time since 2019, she said.
“I didn't know how long it had been until the first meet,” Williams said. “That’s when it definitely hit me, when I didn’t do as good as I usually do.”
Williams, a captain for the Packers, is happy with how her season has gone, but has plenty left in the tank. She’s not satisfied yet.
Williams hasn’t PR’d — bested her personal record — in the 100 or 200 this spring. Currently, she’s about .30 seconds away from that. Williams is also hoping to break some West Fargo school records.