A short time after it began, the coronavirus pandemic forced the CIF to cancel the rest of the spring sports season, which meant an abrupt ending to the high school careers of spring sports seniors around the central valley. As a way of honoring some of these outstanding seniors, our Sports Central team will be presenting a series of stories called “Senior Standouts” each Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday through the end of June.
VISALIA, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — Heading into her senior season, Mt. Whitney thrower Jade Whitfield was already a two-time state qualifier in the discus.
Both years though, she didn’t qualify for the finals at the state meet, which included a really disappointing showing last year as a junior.
“I choked that year. That was a pretty bad year,” says a smiling Whitfield.
But this year, she had put in the work in the offseason, and says “everything was falling into place” for some state redemption, until the pandemic ended everything.
“Pretty bummed out about that,” says the senior, who can deadlift around 330 pounds, and back squat nearly 300.
Of course, the adversity of not getting to compete at this year’s state meet, seems a little trivial compared to what Jade’s already been through in life.
“It’s always been like a struggle, kind of unstable a little bit,” says Whitfield.
A single mother raising two kids in Visalia, Jade’s mother Trina struggled at times to stay afloat financially, especially when Jade and her older brother were in elementary school.
“Very challenging,” says Trina. “We’ve been through some hard times. We’ve been through homelessness.”
In that case, the kids stayed with their father, until Trina was able to secure a modest apartment in Visalia.
“Sometimes, just getting to school was pretty hard,” says Whitfield. “They just always made it work.”
Years later, inspired by her mother’s example of perserverance — she has her own cleaning business — Jade has turned herself into a future Division I college athlete.
“It’s inspirational how you can turn nothing into something,” says Jade.
Always one of the strongest girls in her class, who grew up playing other sports with her older brother and his friends, Jade discovered the discus and shot put in the 7th grade, and never looked back.
“She had a goal, and she stuck to it,” says Trina.
Jade will leave Mt. Whitney as the school record holder in both the discus and shot, and has earned an athletic scholarship to Oregon State in the Pac-12 next season.
“I cried I think, by myself a couple times,” says Trina.
“That was just kind of my inspiration, make your mom proud, go to college, just make her proud,” says Jade. “That was definitely my biggest influence, because I never wanted to let her down.”