Six Jansen children show off their letter jackets at the Oak Harbor High School gymnasium. Jessica, left, Jon, Jake, Jennie, Jember and Julie combined to earn 48 varsitiy letters. (Photo by Emma Wezeman)

Eight is more than enough: Jansens leave stamp on OHHS athletics

The family of Dwayne and Debbie Jansen has left its foot print — more precisely, 20 foot prints — on the athletic program at Oak Harbor High School.

For 21 consecutive years, at least one of the eight Jansen children has been involved in Wildcat sports.

It began when Jessica entered high school in 1996 and will end when Julie graduates this spring. Jon, Jake, Justin, Jennie, Jember and Josh filled the middle years.

DWAYNE AND Debbie estimate they’ve attended more than 700 Oak Harbor High School events, often with Grandma Looff and a couple of kids in tow.

The children attended Oak Harbor Christian School during their elementary years and were home schooled through middle school.

“Dwayne and I felt it was important that they have a public high school experience, which we also felt wouldn’t be complete unless they participated in athletics,” Debbie said.

Participate they did. Combined, the eight children competed in 14 different sports and earned 48 varsity letters.

Three (Jake, Jennie and Jember) earned college athletic scholarships.

In addition to being excellent athletes, all achieved academic letters and were members of the National Honor Society.

“The Jansen siblings have been successful in athletics because our parents have been exemplary role models,” Jessica said. “My mom taught us the value of education from an early age and encouraged us to find the joy in reading books. My dad taught us the importance of perseverance and hard work through his own commitments to family and work.”

DWAYNE AND Debbie didn’t force athletics on the children, Jake said, they just pointed the way and “after a season or two, we took ownership and developed a passion for sports.”

“Sports is a great outlet for energy,” he added. “For their own sanity, I think our parents introduced us to sports to get us out of the house.”

That passion was passed along from child to child.

“Each sibling set the standard for the next, and our expectation was to meet or exceed that standard,” Jennie said. “I grew up with three brothers just older than me. Whenever I didn’t want to or didn’t think I could do something, I was never allowed the excuse of ‘I am a girl.’ I was always told, ‘You’re not a girl, Jennie; you’re a Jansen.’”

ACADEMIC success was equally as important.

“Failure was not an option,” Jake said. “But, my mom didn’t just tell us to do our homework. If we didn’t understand something, she worked with us until we did.”

The lessons learned from athletics and the commitment to classwork are still paying dividends, according to the Jansen children.

“Sports teaches you to work toward a common goal, to accept wins and losses — like getting or not getting promotions at work — gracefully,” Jake said. “It lays a foundation for life.”

“(Tennis) coach (Horace) Mells instilled in me the lifelong love of playing a sport,” Jennie said. “(Basketball) coaches (Brett) McLeod and (Fred) Burleson taught me that there are no restrictions, only abilities to be developed, and hard work will enable you to achieve your goals.”

Athletics continue to play a role in several of the kids’ lives. Jessica and Jennie are both teachers and coaches, and Jake helped with the Wildcat baseball program for three years.

“Sports can be an activity enjoyed over a lifetime — I still play sand volleyball with my sisters Jessica and Julie every summer,” Jennie said.

WHEN JULIE finishes high school in June, Dwayne and Debbie will get a break from following their children around the state — but the journey is not over.

“Dwayne and I are already looking 10 years down the road when our oldest grandchild — Jake’s son, Mason — will be in high school,” Debbie said.

If Oak Harbor High School kept records for such things, it would be safe to say the Jansens would be on the top of the list for varsity letters and honor students.

Oh, and let’s not forget, “J” names.

HERE’S A quick rundown of the Jansen children’s athletic careers:

Jessica (2000 graduate of OHHS): Played varsity volleyball for the Wildcats and is now the junior varsity volleyball coach at King’s High School where she owns a 134-6 record.

Jon (2003): Lettered in football and basketball. He is a career firefighter in Virginia Beach and a Captain in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Jake (2005): An all-league football and baseball player for Oak Harbor. Played baseball at Northwestern College (Iowa), where he earned all-conference honors. He is ranked among the top five in seven Northwestern school records, including first in career putouts (1,069) and second in career RBI (145) and doubles (47).

Justin (2007): Played football and golf as an underclassman and then focused on NJROTC activities (rifle team, orienteering and unarmed drill team). He took first in the 2006 state Junior Olympic three-position air rifle championships; he is also an Eagle Scout.

Jennie (2009): Earned 11 varsity letters (volleyball, basketball, tennis) and played volleyball for Northwest College where she was a three-time all-league player and played in two NAIA national tournaments. She also earned three conference and two NAIA scholar-athlete awards.

Jember (2013): She won 12 varsity letters (soccer, competitive cheer and track) and was a National Cheerleaders Association All-American. Jember helped the Wildcats place second twice in the state cheer tournament. She received a scholarship to Hawaii Pacific University and participated in acrobatics and tumbling and cheer.

Josh (2015): After playing three sports as an underclassman and becoming an Eagle Scout, he turned his attention to firefighting. He attended the Island County Recruit Academy his junior year, then earned his certification as a Firefighter I as a senior.

Julie (2017): Will have 11 varsity letters from three sports (volleyball, basketball and track and field) when she graduates this spring. She hopes to throw the discus for Northwestern College.

Surrounded by her high school volleyball teammates in 1998, the oldest Jansen child, Jessica, holds the youngest, Julie. (Submitted photo)

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