Jazmin Moss was never so relieved to see a white flag thrust in the air.
She had just darted into the sand at the end of her final triple jump attempt Friday night at the Southern Section Masters track and field meet at Cerritos College, her last chance to record a qualifying mark for the state championships.
Moss and her coach at Mater Dei High School for the last four years, Keinan Briggs, had been working tirelessly toward Moss’s goal of reaching the state finals this weekend at Buchanan High School near Fresno, and now it came down to a matter of inches.
She had fouled on two of her previous attempts and fell short of the qualifying mark of 38 feet 1 inch on the other three, leaving one final opportunity to extend her senior season.
After her previous jump had come up two inches short of the qualifying mark, Briggs was surprised to see Moss walking away from the pit with her head down. He hollered at her from the stands, pleading that she not give up, and then took a walk under the grandstands just to clear his own mind.
Briggs, who had never coached a jumper to the state finals in his four seasons at Mater Dei, reemerged from the tunnel just as Moss was warming up for her final attempt.
“When she got up, I knew she was ready to go,” Briggs said.
Moss sped down the runway, hopped and skipped through the first two phases and then launched herself from the white takeoff board. As she sailed through the air, Moss was confident she nailed all her steps, but was concerned the tip of her shoe might have crept over the takeoff board on her final spring, disqualifying the mark.
Briggs was locked in on the judge as well, someone he had watched numerous times over the years as he presided over other events. Briggs knew the judge would give a quick nod of the head if the jump was legal. When he witnessed the judge’s chin drop just as Moss hit the sand, he knew they met their No. 1 goal.
Moss leapt from the sand pit and spun toward the judge just as he shot the white flag in the air, signaling the jump was legal. It still needed to measure at least 38-1, but Moss had gone 38-4 the week before at the Southern Section finals and was confident she landed in similar territory.
“It’s over,” Moss said to herself. “You’re good.”
The mark was officially measured at 38-8 , which not only qualified for state, but matched a 24-year-old school record belonging to Melissa McDonald.
“As a freshman, I never saw myself going this far,” Moss said on the eve of her graduation from Mater Dei. “I was just happy to be part of a team.”
Unlike a majority of freshmen who enroll at Mater Dei, Moss didn’t have any particular interests outside of the classroom. She tried volleyball and basketball before joining the track team in the spring of her freshman year, the same season Briggs started coaching the Mater Dei jumpers.
“I saw potential in her,” Briggs remembers. “She was pretty lanky and really skinny, but just had this raw talent that enabled me to mold her into the athlete she is today.”