SURREY — There is nothing old hat about the way Jasneet Nijjar chooses to wear her triple crowns.
In fact, if you studied way in which the senior from Surrey’s Queen Elizabeth Secondary went about winning three gold medals in the sprint events for the second straight year at the recent B.C. high school championship meet in Kelowna, you could almost say it was a tip of the cap to her substantial versatility.
In 2018, Nijjar became just the third female in the B.C. high school senior meet’s championship history to win the 100m, 200m and 400m races in the same year.
This season, she was the unquestioned favourite to do it all over again in the same three, yet the Grade 12 who trains with Universal Athletics Club under longtime head coach Jessie Dosanjh, decided she needed a new challenge.
“I have always been worried about hitting standards, but this year, I just decided I wanted to change things up,” Nijjar explained Thursday. “I hadn’t done hurdles in two years, and there was a height change there (from 30 to 33 inches). It took a little while to adjust, but in the end it was good.”
It was more than that.
Nijjar not only won the 100m (12.05 seconds) for a second straight season, and the 200m (24.50 seconds) for a third straight year, she also won the 100m hurdles (14.21 seconds) for the first time.
The latter stands as something of a signature moment in Nijjar’s high school track and field career because it showed just how willing she was to expand her repertoire, and to push new envelopes in both distance and technique.
And once again, it was part of an historic triple crown.
That precise combination of three races had not been won in 16 years, and since the girls meet began in 1967, only three others had ever accomplished it: Jean Sparling with West Vancouver’s Hillside Highwaymen in 1973, Ainsley McLean of the North Delta Huskies in 1985, and in both 2002 and ’03, Yvonne Mensah of Vancouver’s Little Flower Academy Angels.
Interestingly enough, Nijjar had to drop one of her big three races in order to compete in the 100m hurdles, so she dropped the 400 metres, the same event in which she represented Canada at last summer’s Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Yet ask Nijjar to explain the goals of her Grade 12 season and you very quickly realize that it was all about enhancing her overall athletic presence, all in preparation for a collegiate career set to begin next season in the Pac 12 at Washington State University where her head coach is Prince George native and former UBC Thunderbird Wayne Phipps.
“I had stuck to the sprints, but this year, I wanted to give the multi-events a shot,” explained Nijjar who had actually started her season by training for the seven-event B.C. girls high school heptathlon, which takes place each year a week before the main meet. “But then I suffered two hamstring injuries (in November and February).”
Nonetheless, it was far from wasted time. Her heptathlon training re-introduced her to the 100m hurdles, setting the stage for her most unique triple gold-medal finish at the provincial meet.
As her high school career comes to a close, her personal bests:
100 metres — 12.05 seconds at the 2019 B.C. high school championships.
200 metres — 23.83 seconds at the 2017 Canada Summer Games.
400 metres — 55.36 seconds at the 2017 B.C. high school championships.
100 metre hurdles —14.21 seconds at the 2019 B.C. high school championships.
Laurier Primeau, a fellow Queen Elizabeth Secondary grad, the Royals’ 1988 B.C. high school 400m hurdles champ, and a former Canadian national team hurdler, says he can see an expansive future for Nijjar as it pertains to any numbers of distances and disciplines.
“When it comes to Jasneet, I think her well-rounded junior development background will be the real key to her success across a number of events,” said Primeau, the UBC Thunderbirds head coach. “This year, she added the 100m hurdles, but she could have run the 400m or even the 400m hurdles and potentially had equal success.
“She was a phenomenal high jumper and long jumper at a younger age, if memory serves, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw her try the 800 metres or even multi-events.”
Nijjar, who as an eighth grader won the B.C. pentathlon title, concurs with all of that.
“That has been a topic which has been brought up a lot to me a lot,” she says of just where she might end up specializing at Washington State. “What I say is that I am always open to any event. I never close one down. I am even hoping to do at least one heptathlon to see how my body feels about it.”
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