Joli Jungels came a quarter of an inch short of qualifying for the state meet in the long jump a year ago.
Her 17-foot, 1/4-inch length was bested by the slimmest of margins, which is hard enough to take. But Jungel's hurt a little extra last May, because it was her freshman sister Jenna who recorded a 17- 0 1/2 jump to advance.
"Those kinds of things are tough," Joli, now a senior, said. "I was happy for Jenna, but it was more difficult because it was so close. It was tough."
Jenna went on to place eighth at state and both sisters are currently leading a strong Kankakee Valley team. Coach Lane Lewallen calls sophomore Jenna a "once-in-a-coaching-career talent," while big sister Joli is a "once-in-a-coaching-career leader" who often sets the workout plans for jumpers and hurdlers.
"You're not going to find a better pair of young ladies," Lewallen said. "They're two phenomenal kids from a phenomenal family."
Jenna has an impressive portfolio of personal records for a sophomore. It includes an 18-1 long jump, a 15.3 in the 100-meter hurdles and a 25.5 in the 200.
"Jenna is the first person to say that Joli is a big reason she's done so well," Lewallen said. "Sometimes, big sister Joli can get on Jenna a little bit, but she never leaves Jenna stranded."
Joli's athleticism shouldn't be overlooked, either, with a high jump best of five feet, a 17-1/4" long jump and a 49.7 in the 300 hurdles.
Both Jungels were part of a 49.37 400 relay team and both are great students, ranking near the top of their respective classes. Neither has missed a practice in high school — not even the optional ones.
"For different reasons, they're very much the heart and soul of our team," Lewallen said. "You won't find anybody who works harder."
Things can get competitive between the two, but their relationship on the track is much more cooperative than adversarial. They help each other with technique and hold each other's blocks.
"I don't know what I'd do without (Joli)," Jenna said. "I like when people say 'hey, there's the Jungels sisters.' It's cool being seen that way."
Lewallen and Jenna both say they try not to think about what things will be like next year with one fewer Jungels sister around.
"I'll be lonely," Jenna said.
"I've tried to put it on the back burner of my brain because some of these seniors might as well just be my family," Lewallen said. "I'm just going to try to enjoy every minute I have left."