Track star works to bridge generation gap

Team Leader: ASU senior Jasmine Chaney lunges over the hurdle during the 100-meter hurdles on Saturday in Tempe. She finished second in the race behind a runner for the Stellar Athletic Club. (Photo by Lisa Bartoli)

Check the results from week to week. Check the national leaders. Check the ASU record books. You’ll see why last week’s Pac-10 women’s track athlete of the week is one of the most talked about Sun Devils of the spring.

The thing is, though, the awards and lists don’t mean a thing to her.

“Being completely blunt, it means nothing to me,” redshirt senior Jasmine Chaney said. “Being ranked No. 1 in the nation means nothing to me. It’s not something we’re concerned with on the track. I don’t just want to be Pac-10 athlete of the week. I want to be athlete of the year.”

Her contributions on the scoreboard for the No. 10 ASU women’s track and field team are numerous, but it can be easily argued that her greatest contribution is that attitude.

“She’s affected a lot of other athletes with her demeanor. She takes practice seriously,” ASU women’s sprints coach Kenny McDaniel said. “I don’t care if I get knocked out and lose most of my memory. The one thing I will always remember that every day she came to practice, she was never afraid to work hard. The freshmen see her work every day. They see the proof. Kids may not be listening, but they are always watching.”

One of those kids watching is sophomore Keia Pinnick. After watching Chaney over the past year, the one thing Pinnick could never question and respects the most is her work ethic.

“There was one week where she had to do a really hard week to prepare for nationals and she just kept blasting and blasting,” Pinnick said. “If some of us had tried to do that, it might have been a disaster. But seeing her do that, it’s like wow, she’s all about business. She’s ready, and we need to be ready too.”

Chaney’s work ethic and sense of constant readiness is something that has been sculpted over her career at ASU.

“When I came in, I was the only freshman. There was a whole team of upperclassmen,” Chaney said. “They had this huge amount of success. They just had this urgency and they knew what they came to each event for. So when I came in, that’s what was instilled in me.”

Those instilled values are what Chaney has accrued over her five years at ASU and she tries to pass down those values to the younger generation of Sun Devil athletes.

“She’s been here a while. She knows a lot more about how to get better,” Pinnick said. “Things we might get frustrated on. She knows how to get through it. We might not be expecting it, but if she sees it, she’ll let us know. That really helps out a lot.”

One of the reasons Chaney is trying to lead this young group as she has is her competitive nature to get out of a relative dry spell for ASU and back to the top.

The Sun Devils won two outdoor national titles in 2007 and 2008 and one indoor national title in 2007 during Chaney’s freshman and sophomore seasons.

“I’ve been through the ups and downs with this team. I’ve got three championship rings that I got in my first two years of being here that I really didn’t participate in,” Chaney said. “So being here and seeing the work that goes into building a program, I’ve seen all the phases. I feel like now I’m here at the start of a new phase. Everybody is the next somebody.”

Chaney can see the molds of past ASU stars in these new athletes and knows how those molds are filled. She is trying her best to return the Sun Devils to the podium because she is one of the few who has seen it before.

“She’s always talking about ways we could be a better team. She’s seen it, but she missed it,” McDaniel said. “She had a chance to see all the success and going to the White House, but she was at home for that. That’s what she’s envisioned. When she saw it, she wanted to be a part of it.”

Even if she may have caught the back end of previous success and may be on the front end of future success, Chaney is trying to be that bridge between the generations.

“I feel like I have to uphold that legacy behind the Jessica Pressleys and the Jackie Johnsons,” Chaney said. “I was here when we had the No. 1 thrower in the nation, the No. 1 pole vaulter and the No. 1 heptathlete. Now, our youngest bangers are a thrower, a pole vaulter, and a heptathlete. So it’s just upholding that legacy.”

It’s now up to the future to uphold the great legacies of the Jasmine Chaneys of Sun Devil track and field.

Reach the reporter at zcavanag@asu.edu