It was a sobering summer for Ki- sha Jett, Hammond High's celebrated speedster. It was also an educational summer and a successful one on the track.
Jett, who led the county in soccer scoring last fall with 26 goals, and who won the 100-, 200- and 400-meter state Class 2A track titles last spring, developed asthma during The Athletic Congress' Junior Olympics in California in August.
And although she has scored four goals as the defending state Class 2A-1A champion Bears have won their first three soccer games this season, the asthma has caused her to leave games several times.
"It disturbs me some because I can't control it," she said. "I make a lot of sprints during games, and humid weather bothers me."
She first noticed a shortness of breath while running in California. The asthma wasn't diagnosed until she returned to Maryland. She still finished a close fourth nationally in the TAC 100 meters and was on two second-place relays in the 17-18 age division.
"I have an inhaler that I use if I have to come out of the game," said the 17-year-old junior. "But it's not too bad. It's psychological mainly."
Another sobering but educational part of her summer was a two-week goodwill track tour to Russia in June and July, when she participated in an exchange program. She lived with Russian families in two cities and competed in track, winning her events in the 100, 200 and 400 meters.
"They have no physical comforts," Jett said of the Russians. "American teens don't realize how good they have it."
One family Jett stayed with had to boil water for bathing.
"We have so much and they have so little," she said. "It's a completely different world."
One world Jett would like to have experienced was the Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, where her brother, James, 21, won a gold medal as part of the American 400 relay team. James Jett ran in the semifinals and was an alternate for the finals, giving way to Carl Lewis.
Kisha has her sights set on future Olympics and proudly wore a Barcelona shirt, borrowed from her father, to the first soccer practice this season.
A fierce competitor, Jett also has a humorous side.
"She keeps us in stitches," coach Dave Guetler said. "What she did in a game against Spalding last season was the funniest thing I've ever seen."
Jett and a Spalding player became isolated one-on-one. The Spalding player fell on top of the ball. When the player wouldn't get off the ball, Jett, playing sweeper, yelled, "Get out of my way!"
She kicked the ball away and dribbled down the field, scoring and leaving three defenders on the ground behind her. "I shouldn't have yelled at her, but I thought she did it intentionally," Jett said.
Jett's competitive nature is well-known. Sometimes she simply refuses to allow her team to lose.
Hammond and Glenelg were tied, 1-1, after regulation last year. During the break, she yelled, "I didn't come out here to lose."
Twenty seconds into overtime, she scored the winning goal.
Trailing 2-0 in the second half against Oakland Mills last season, the Bears rallied to win behind Jett's four second-half goals.
And after playing to a 1-1 first-half tie with Fallston last year, Jett scored three times within six minutes, sparking a 6-1 victory.
"When people play us they first have to figure out a way to stop her," Guetler said. "She makes people's heads spin. Everyone talks about how fast she is."
Guetler doesn't think the asthma will be a major hindrance to Jett's success as a striker, nor will it cost her any track titles.
The coach's daughter plays soccer and has asthma, so he knows from experience when Jett needs a break.
"I've always given her breaks because she sprints so much during games," Guetler said, "but the only difference is now I throw her the inhaler."