All-American Demiel comes through

Published 10:39pm Thursday, March 27, 2014

Injury and disappointment have accompanied former Lakeland High School track and field standout JaQuan Demiel within the last month and a half, but he has pushed through it all to unprecedented personal achievements at the college level.

In mid-February, Demiel, a junior at Saint Augustine’s University, took first in the long jump at the 2014 Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association indoor track and field championships.

St. Augustine’s University junior JaQuan Demiel recently jumped his way through difficulties to an All-American indoor performance.
St. Augustine’s University junior JaQuan Demiel recently jumped his way through difficulties to an All-American indoor performance.

He took fourth as a freshman and second as sophomore, with Virginia Union University’s Berfrantz Charles winning both times. This time, Charles was runner-up to Demiel’s leap of 24-feet-1.5-inches.

Demiel said the win meant a lot to him because it “let me know that my hard work was paying off.”

It also helped the St. Augustine’s men’s team take home its 17th straight CIAA indoor crown and 29th conference championship overall.

Along with two of his teammates, Demiel was named CIAA Men’s Most Valuable Players in the field events.

“I always wanted to win that, but I didn’t know I had a chance,” he said.

The MVPs had to generate the most points, and Demiel, who also took fourth in the triple jump, tied for 14 with his teammates, senior DeJon Wilkinson and junior David Shaw.

Additionally, Demiel’s proficiency in the long jump earned him a place among 13 Falcon teammates to receive National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II All-Atlantic Region Indoor Track and Field honors. They were awarded by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

“I didn’t even know about that until my Aunt Travonda (Demiel) texted me ‘Congratulations,’” he said. He praised God for the honor and added, “I was happy.”

Unfortunately, the seeds for a difficult road ahead had already been sown because he hurt his ankle at the CIAA championships, blaming an improper takeoff.

“My coach said my takeoff was fine, but it wasn’t comfortable, so I thought it was my fault,” Demiel said.

Then, training for a March 2 event prior to nationals, he injured his Achilles and his knee, and his coaches pulled him out of the event.

He had qualified for the national championships for the first time earlier this year, but suddenly his training was forced to a standstill, and nationals were on March 14 and 15.

“I was just getting a lot of treatment and rehab,” Demiel said.

The whole season was building to this point, and now, not only could he not practice, but also he was in a lot of pain.

Pointing to what helped him get through this stretch, he said it was “my family and prayer, because myself — I had a breakdown.”

His mom, Cynthia Demiel, paid him a visit, and she shared what she said to encourage him.

“I told him to pray, always pray, keep God first,” she said, citing Philippians 4:13, which says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

She also let him know his mother was squarely behind him as she said she told him that “I love him and that I believe in him.”

With an injured ankle, a sore Achilles and a sore knee, he competed in the long jump at the NCAA Division II men’s indoor track and field championships and placed eighth with a jump of 23 feet, 8.75 inches.

His best mark of the season ended up being at the Penn State National meet at the end of January and beginning of February when he leaped 24-feet-5.75-inches.

After nationals, Demiel was consumed with disappointment, but said he again credited his family and God with helping him through it.

“God has a plan, so what I wanted must not be what He wanted for me at this time,” he said.

But Demiel was eventually able to take joy in what he had accomplished. His eighth place finish earned him his first ever college All-American honor and helped the St. Augustine’s team win its 13th men’s indoor crown and 34th national championship overall under head coach George Williams.

Acknowledging his All-American award, Demiel said, “That’s a blessing. It’s a great honor.” He said that so many other athletes wanted to be at nationals but did not make it, meaning he had a lot for which to be grateful.

“What made me the proudest was that he accomplished the goal, which was to make it to nationals, and he did his best,” his mother said. “Through all his injuries, he still came out to me as the winner.”

Coach Williams evaluated Demiel’s year.

“He had a good indoor season. I always think my kids can do better, but he’s improved tremendously,” Williams said. “I think the (outdoor season) is going to be a stellar year, too, for him.”

Demiel is healing and on track to compete by April.

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