BREMERTON — As marriage proposals go, this one was pretty memorable.
Bremerton seniors Abby Dubeau and Jesse Smith made their two-and-a-half-year courtship official at their high school prom last weekend — with Smith doing the honors on bended knee in front of their friends and classmates and drawing a huge cheer. And, of course, a yes from Dubeau.
“I guess he’d been planning it,” Dubeau said, adding Smith was called to the stage after the king and queen were crowned. Smith took Dubeau by the hand and walked up the stage where he dropped down on his knee and pulled the ring from the silk handkerchief of his breast pocket.
“Everyone started screaming,” Dubeau beamed, “it was really cool.”
“She has a ring. I did get one,” Smith said as Dubeau laughed. “She takes it off when she vaults.”
Smith and Dubeau are also the top pole vaulters for the Knights track and field team. Smith leads the Olympic League with a personal record of 14 feet, three inches, bettering his best by nine inches. He accomplished that feat last Saturday at the OL sub-district meet at Bremerton’s Memorial Stadium, his fourth straight sub-district win. Dubeau, who was also a four-year soccer player for Bremerton and was named a senior captain, MVP and All-Olympic League first-team selection, hit a personal record at the same meet, hitting a height of 9-6 for her own PR, adding six inches to her best.
The pair is aiming for return trips to the Class 2A state meet next weekend, but up first is the West Central District 2A/1A meet Friday and Saturday at Renton Memorial Stadium. The district record is 14-7 by Derek Anderson of Lindberg last season and Smith wants to hit a record 15 feet, which would be the school record.
Smith, with a gymnastics background, wasn’t sure what to expect from his senior season. He was ranked No. 1 in 2A as a freshman, with a vault of 13 feet, the highest for an underclassman in the past 10 years, Smith said.
After plateauing last season due to the lack of access to more advanced poles, he was able to set personal records in the last two weeks.
Finding the right pole is a necessity for a vaulter. Like Goldilocks finding just the right porridge — not too hot and not too cold — poles need to grow with the athlete as they progress. Each pole is rated for weight, flex number and length.
If a pole is too soft or too stiff it can be a problem for vaulters, Smith said, adding his problem was when he started to build up more speed his poles became too soft. He needed a stronger pole to support him and his speed. A stiffer pole means more energy going upward.
“More fling,” Dubeau said.
In terms of where they are heading to districts, Smith and Dubeau are just hitting their stride.
“I think we’re both where we want to be,” Smith said. “But there’s definitely more we could achieve with the last two meets in high school.”
Having your best friend and fiancé with you on the same track team also adds to the dynamic of their relationship, considering they are both in the same event.
Assistant Bremerton track coach Jeremy Blum is also in a unique position to watch his best male and female vaulters learn and become better with each vault. He’s also an associate pastor at Sylvan Way Baptist and has been ministering to them in pre-marriage counseling.
Blum said it’s been great to watch them grow as a couple and individual athletes and they are ready as any couple can be for marriage.
“Their reasons are noble, their reasons are mature and well thought (out) and well articulated,” he said. “They’re not doing certain things that other high schoolers do because they are future-minded. That’s beyond their wedding and marriage, that’s plans for college, plans for work.”
What makes it unique in 2018 is it’s flying in the face of a modern culture which promotes multiple partners and relationships instead of making a lifelong commitment.
“We’re living in an era right now where children are growing up later in the sense of opportunity, kids are staying at home until their thirties, and there’s nothing wrong with that … but at the same time, we’re exposing our youth to things that are more adult-themed.
“… In many ways, they’re growing up early but in many ways they’re having an opportunity to be delayed in their growth because that’s society’s way of working right now. But there’s nothing uncommon for a couple to get married younger.
“They have the blessings of their families and support from their peers that are close to them.”
Smith and Dubeau’s chance to develop a friendship began at an early age. They were in sixth grade together at Mountain View Middle School, and they both attend the same church, Abundant Life in Bremerton.
It wasn’t ever a question of if they would get married but when. They received the blessings from their families for their upcoming marriage — it was actually the second time, the first time was when Smith and Dubeau asked their parents if they could start dating as sophomores.
Smith and Dubeau are also looking at their lifelong partnership in a practical way. It is a financial benefit for the couple to be married as they head off to Washington State University. It’s cheaper to live in an apartment then student housing, including the dorms, and they will receive more in student aid to help pay for school.
“Besides all the money talk, we do love each other,” Dubeau said, bringing a laugh from Smith and a nod in agreement. “We know that this is the right decision for us. There’s a lot of people that will think otherwise, ‘You’re too young. You don’t know who you are yet.’
“But we know that this is the right decision for us and our parents know that as well.”
If district, state, graduation and planning a wedding aren’t enough, Smith, with the encouragement of Dubeau, also has more incentive to reach for a new personal record. He hopes to compete for the Cougars track team and will get a shot if he can make a height of 15 feet before the end of summer.
“We’re going to see if I can do it this weekend or next weekend and I also have the outdoor season in which I can hit that mark and walk-on the team,” Smith said.
It will be an exciting summer of firsts for the couple as their wedding is July 28 and not long after they will head to Pullman. It’s a big leap, but for the couple who are used to flying through the air, their Christian faith, family support and love for each other has them believing in happy ever after.