Jade Pope had a week she will never forget.
First, the electrifying sprint star from Pennsauken celebrated a return to racing last Saturday with a pair of victories, and then today she and her twin sister, Jasmin, celebrated their college signings during a ceremony at the school's athletic facility.
Jade, the state's top quarter-miler, signed her National Letter of Intent with DePaul University. Jasmin inked her letter with St. Peter's University.
DePaul is getting themselves a sensational track and field star.
Pope burst on the scene as a freshman with a stunning performance when she blasted a school record 55.65 to place fourth at the 2018 Outdoor Meet of Champions, and clearing a personal best 5-6 in the high jump.
How many girls in state history can say they gone sub 56 in the quarter, and cleared 5-6 in the high jump? Not very many! Pope is indeed a rare breed.
Pope has been one of the most exciting performers in the state during her remarkable career, collecting several big titles, and running red hot times from 55m through 400.
Last winter, Pope won the 400 at the State Group 3 Championships for the second straight year in a school indoor record 56.98, making her the fastest returning quarter-miler in the state this year. She also ran a personal best 7.37 in the 55m dash.
NJ MileSplit recently caught up with Pope this week for an in depth Q and A.
Pope talked how exciting it was to finally race for the first time in nearly a year, what her goals are, how she got started in T&F, which NJ Legend inspires her, what made her choose DePaul and a whole lot more.
So, sit back and enjoy our latest installment of Feature Friday as we shine the spotlight on Jade Pope, the fastest quarter-miler in the state.
Jade Pope Interview
NJM: First of all, how did it feel to finally compete again last weekend for the first time since last March? How exciting was it, and what did it personally mean to you to be out on the track racing again?
It felt great to compete again for the first time in almost a year. Personally it meant that I can really prove myself and what I am capable of running in my last year of high school.
After winning both your races in your season opener last week with times of 7.65 in the 55m and 26.97 in the 200, how do you feel about the way you raced, and what did you take away from those two performances?
When is your next meet and what will you be running?
My next meet is March 1 (a Quad meet at the Bennet Center), and I will be running the 400m for the first time since last indoor season.
You had a great indoor season last year, Jade. You won the 400 at the Group 3 meet with a personal indoor best 56.68 and ran a PR of 7.37. The 56.68 was No. 4 in the state and the fastest by a returning runner this season. What does it mean to you to be the fastest 400 runner in the state, and how much confidence does that give you for this season, and how driven are you to remain the state's top quarter miler?
I am very humbled to be the fastest 400 runner in the state and that title doesn't give me much confidence knowing there will be other driven girls coming for that same spot. But, I am very excited for the competition there will be for that spot.
What are your biggest goals for this indoor season and for the outdoors? What kind of times would you like to hit in all your events?
As of right now, I don't have any set time goals, My only goals are to run the fastest I can run and don't hold back.
You already own the school records in the 400m indoors (56.98) and outdoors (55.65). How much of a goal is it for you to break your own records, and what does it mean to you to be the greatest quarter miler in school history?
Knowing I own the 400m record both indoor and outdoor only pushes me and to not settle for what I have already achieved.
Every track and field athlete in New Jersey dreams of winning a Meet of Champions title. What would it mean to you to win an M of C title this spring and how big of a goal is that for you, Jade?
To win an MOC title would be amazing. Knowing that this is my last opportunity as a senior to win and being on top, that title will drive me.
Unfortunately, there wasn't an outdoor season last spring because of COVID-19, so you didn't get a chance to run outdoor track last spring. How challenging was that and how tough was it mentally to deal with?
Not being able to run outdoor last spring was very frustrating and upsetting knowing my junior year is one of the most important years.
What type of things did you do to stay sharp since last indoor season? What kind of training were you able to do?
To stay sharp since last indoor I've trained with my dad and sister doing a combination of long runs and working on my mechanics. Also I ran cross country during this season for the first time to get an extra jumpstart.
You've competed in all the sprint races from 55m through 400. Which race is your favorite and why?
My favorite race of all time is of course the 400. I have pretty much mastered it inside and out. I've broken it down in parts to run it mentally and physically.
How about the high jump, Jade? I know you made your PR of 5-6 as a freshman. What are your goals in that event?
High jump is an event that has kind of gotten overshadowed by my dominant 400. But outdoors, I plan to get back into it and aim for 5-8.
What do you consider your greatest strength as a track and field athlete?
I consider my greatest strength as a track and field self motivation. It takes more than medals or titles to motivate me. It's wanting to achieve goals for myself that I know I have the ability to do.
Let's get into some background, Jade. Can you tell me how, when, and why you first got started competing in track and field? Did you play other sports growing up? How did this whole track thing get started?
I first got into track at about the age of 8 when I had the option to choose between karate and track by my parents lol. Track was a sport I had no knowledge of but when I participated in over time I became better and better.
When would you say you had your first huge breakthrough moment when you realized you could be a big track and field star?
The moment I noticed I had a true breakout in track was actually before high school when I ran for my club team, Camden PA, when I was 14. At this point in my life, the 400 wasn't an event I was very good at. But, at one meet in the 4x400 I ran an anchor leg that not only surprised my parents and teammates but myself as well. I got the baton a couple of seconds before 2 girls and at the end i found an extra gear and caught them. It was surprising.
What would you say is your greatest moment in track and field and why?
My greatest moment in track would have to be when I PR'd and broke the school record in the 400m my freshman year.
Who is your favorite college/pro runner to watch and why? What do you learn from watching them that you feel can help you keep dropping PR's?
My favorite pro runner is Sydney McLaughlin because of the way effortlessly runs the 400m. What I learned from her that can help me is to run calm and relaxed but still to execute.
What do you love the most about being a track and field athlete?
What I love most about being a track athlete is having friends and family able to watch and support my talent.
What's your biggest long-term goal in track and field in college and beyond?
My biggest long term goal in track and field is to possibly go pro under Nike.
What do you like to do when you're not on the track or in school or doing school work? Have any interesting hobbies or another talent or skill?
Other than track or school work, I came across an interest in interior decorating. It's something that I found interesting and can do around the house during these times.
How excited are you to be attending DePaul this fall? What was it about the school/team that made you commit there?
I am very excited to be heading to Chicago and attending DePaul this fall. Even though I couldn't visit due to Covid, the coaches, and academic advisors made it feel like home.
What do you plan to major in and what type of career would you like to pursue?
In college, I plan to major in biology aiming to pursue a career in dermatology.