Javonne Antoine fled. She was under attack, the fear of her assailant pushing her faster, she remembers. A fence stood nearby and the other side would no doubt mean sweet safety. A natural athlete, she was able to keep her pursuer at bay as she pushed on, reaching the fence and hurdling it with ease, recalled her father, and she was safe again.
Antoine was 3 years old at the time. Her pursuer? A shaggy, playful collie. To this day, Antoine is not a dog person.
“I’m terrified of dogs,” said Antoine, now a rising junior at Elizabeth Seton High School. “It’s gotten a little bit better, but I still don’t like them.”
While her father, Buster, was all too amused as the scene of his daughter running for her life from the pup unfolded in front of him, he also remembers being impressed with his little toddler’s ability to scale a barrier nearly as tall as she was.
“I said right there, ‘Oh, you’re going to run track,’” Buster recalled.
Antoine is no longer running from dogs or scaling fences. As a Roadrunner she does anything from the 55-meter hurdles to the triple jump to the 300 meters.
“I don’t think I could do a 3,000,” she joked. But she did express confidence that in any event less than 1,000 meters, she could become formidable.
A Beltsville resident, Antoine originally was slated to attend High Point High School but “it wouldn’t have worked out,” she said. Not academically or athletically.
Seton’s track program was on the rise, having won four consecutive Washington Catholic Athletic Conference titles, as was Antoine’s ability. As a grade-schooler she medaled in the Junior Olympics. Then as a freshman at Seton, she placed in the top five in four events during the indoor season. Roadunners coach Omar Wilkins slotted Antoine in eight different events throughout her inaugural high school campaign.
“She’s a very hard working, very talented athlete,” Wilkins said. “We knew she could do the field events so we wanted to try her at a couple other things.”
By the time she was 11 she was doing triathlons. Soon after, she expanded upon that, competing in pentathlons. But Antoine’s primary talents always resided in jumping.
Ever since that day when she outran the collie, she was built to leap. Her long, lean legs are ideal springs, especially for an event like the triple jump, where she uses three separate bounds.
“Things don’t come easy, but she makes it look so easy,” Wilkins said. “The reason she makes it look so easy is because she works to perfect it time in and time out. She doesn’t get frustrated.”
Antoine had a breakout season this past year, placing second in the WCAC Championships in the long and triple jumps and took fourth in the high jump. Her personal record of 38 feet, 4 inches in the triple jump was Maryland’s top mark until Bishop McNamara’s Brielyn Rogers recorded a 39-foot effort at the WCAC Championships.
“I thought it was going to stick,” she said of her No. 1 spot in the event. “I was kind of disappointed but then again, I’m only a sophomore.”
Antoine has hit the drills hard to improve her leaping ability, doing standing jumps, triple jumps, box jumps, long jumps, ab exercises, and an assortment of others. This past weekend at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex for the USA Track and Field Region 16 Junior Olympics Championships, she won the triple jump, qualifying for another shot at a Junior Olympics title at the end of July.
Wilkins said he never has seen a jumper hit the marks that she has been hitting at her age.
“Not that early,” he said. “Never.”
But an achievement that her father ranks with any on the track is one that came in the classroom.
About a month ago, Buster received an email from NCSA Athletic Recruiting — a Chicago-based athletic recruiting service — informing him that his daughter had won a scholarship awarded to a select few from around the nation. The scholarships are awarded to applicants “based on leadership in their community, academic achievement, athletics and a required essay written by the student athlete,” wrote NCSA public relations coordinator Tiffany Menzione in an email.
“It was a great feeling,” Antoine said of receiving the award.
Added Buster: “We were excited about it and appreciative. We knew it was going to put her in a position to get recruited and possibly get more scholarships.”
The essay that helped her win the award was on leadership, something she’s going to need plenty of in the next two years as Seton graduates a group of talented seniors.
“I feel the pressure all the time,” she said of maintaining the dominant legacy that Seton has built for the past six seasons. “Becoming an upperclassman next year expands my role as a leader. I’m just going to encourage people a lot to try their best and be their best.”