MAPLEWOOD, NJ — While graduation is a time to celebrate accomplishments and look toward our students’ bright futures, it can also be bittersweet. For instance, Columbia High School will be losing one of its most dedicated student-athletes: Jasmine Keegan.
The Maplewood resident has lettered in three CHS sports — volleyball, basketball and track and field — playing each of her four years at the school. In basketball and track and field, she was a varsity player for all four years; in volleyball, she made the leap from junior varsity to varsity after her freshman year. She was named an All-Conference athlete in all three sports throughout her career, with placement on first and second teams as a Super Essex Conference All-Star.
Additionally, Keegan, who enjoys hanging out with friends, watching TV and movies, playing with animals, and doing arts and crafts, was named the CHS female scholar-athlete of the year and received a scholar-athlete award from Men of Essex.
But these accomplishments come second to Keegan’s pride for being a Cougar for four years.
“My athletic experience at Columbia has been more than I could have ever wished for,” Keegan told The Villager recently. “In all I do and did I felt included and really as if I was a part of another family outside of home. I felt I progressed in each sport I played an extensive amount, and it’s all due to the wonderful coaches and encouragement from teammates. To me, being a Cougar means to hold a legacy.”
But Keegan stressed that the CHS legacy is maintained by the teams, not by any one person. And a lot of credit goes to the coaches, who support their athletes both on and off the field, she said.
Unsurprisingly, the coach who has contributed most to Keegan’s success is one of her track and field coaches — her father, Chuck Keegan.
“He has so much patience as a coach that allows him to keep everything and everyone in check and it teaches me that in sports I need to have patience,” Jasmine Keegan said of her father. “Not everything is going to come at once; things will need time and hard work but eventually, if I keep my head right, things will fall into place.”
And keeping perspective is a major asset to any athlete. Keegan emphasized that the key to being a strong athlete is not winning, but the pride of doing your best and working as a team.
“This year in basketball we lost by one point to Newark Academy, who was the top team in our conference,” Keegan said. “We literally fought until the end, our last three points coming as a buzzer-beater. The effort each and every player put into that game really made me proud of not just being a basketball player at Columbia, but an overall CHS athlete.
“From my experiences, we always give it our all,” she continued. “And yes, we occasionally have bad days, yet we make it a point to make up for it the next time around. The heart everyone puts in for the team is mind-blowing and is the type of energy I love being around and it is what has helped to make my time at Columbia so unforgettable.”
But just because Keegan will no longer be playing for the Cougars during the next school year does not mean she won’t be representing everything being a Cougar stands for. Everyone can look forward to seeing great things from Keegan in the future as she participates in track and field and studies at Oberlin College in Ohio.