Jessica Ramsey prepares to throw the shot put in the women's competition at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
While training for her first Olympics, U.S. shot putter Jessica Ramsey (Western Kentucky, track & field) also worked as a court-appointed special advocate for children.
“She (has) just a very, very large heart, giving heart,” said Erin Smith, the executive director of CASA in Lafayette County in Mississippi. “You never see her without a smile on her face, and she just really loves what she does.”
She has juggled both passions well, and in Tokyo, advanced to the finals of the women’s shot put. Saturday didn’t finish as she hoped, however, after fouling on her first three attempts.
Fan support remains strong for Ramsey, especially at CASA of Lafayette County, a non-profit organization that advocates for abused and neglected children during youth court. The group helps to ensure children in foster care are placed in safe homes.
“It's not your average volunteer role,” Smith said. “It's more something that you're going to have to be committed to … and it's tough and there's nothing pretty about the foster care system. She does it because she has a passion for helping others, but has a passion for helping kids as well.”
Volunteers are asked to commit to at least one year or the duration of their assigned case. Ramsey started volunteering at CASA in 2019, Smith said, and is now in her second year and is four to five months into her second case.
“I want to make a positive change in a child’s life – and even the family’s life,” Ramsey said in an interview with National CASA/GAL Association. “It means the world to me. After my first case, I felt great. I immediately saw that I made an impact. To see a young child not have to worry, to be placed in a stable environment, allowing that child to thrive, was rewarding to me.”
Despite Ramsey’s accomplishments, Smith said she has never “met anyone as humble as she is.”
Ramsey, one of five former Western Kentucky athletes competing in the Tokyo Olympics, leaves an impression wherever she goes.
Former Western Kentucky track and field coach Erik Jenkins, now leading South Florida’s team, called Ramsey “one of the pillars of our program.”
“She was one that got in the weight room, she worked, when she was in the ring, she worked. She worked in the classroom and you knew she having fun doing it,” he said.
At WKU, Ramsey remains ranked No.1 all-time for indoor shot put (54 feet, ½ inch), and for the outdoor season, she has nine of the Top 10 spots in the records books.
She is also No. 1 in the records for discus (176-8), and weight throw (66-10).
In 2014, Ramsey became the first Hilltoppers athlete to compete in the National Outdoor Championships in at least three individual events (shot put, hammer throw and discus throw).
Brent Chumbley, the director of the cross country and track and field programs at Western Kentucky, didn’t have the opportunity to coach Ramsey, but he said he sometimes mentions Ramsey’s commitment and work ethic when speaking to his current athletes.
“You can be great anywhere. You don't have to be at a Power Five school in order to be a great thrower or a great runner or anything else,” Chumbley said. “Look at Jessica, look at her commitment, look at the time that she spent here. She used it to the best of her ability, and it has springboarded her to where she is today.”
Jenkins added that “the road towards success is never a straight line, and I’m quite sure she had deviation, but she keeps pushing towards success.”
In the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, Ramsey didn’t make it to the finals for shot put.
Her return and success in the 2020 Trials, where she broke a meet record, is a testament to the perseverance and dedication she has put into her craft.
“I’m proud of her,” Jenkins said. “We got her back 100 percent, and I look forward to nothing but good things for her here and beyond.”