Chewelah’s Jeanneret receives the Jace Malek Award For Toughness

SPOKANE, Wash. — Just over four years ago we lost our friend Jace Malek to cancer.  The Idaho Vandal and West Valley Eagle spent his final months inspiring others by showing incredible strength and toughness.  Before he passed, Jace gave us permission to honor him every year by giving out the Jace Malek Award for toughness to someone involved in high school sports who shows the same qualities Jace did.  We are honored to give the award for the 5th time tonight, to Jake Jeanneret of Chewelah.

At first glance Jake Jeanneret looks like a typical small town star athlete.

“When you first see him, it takes a while for you to notice that there’s anything different about Jake,” says Chewelah wrestling coach Kim Hogan.

But when you look closer, you see Jake favors his right arm, because he was born with a brachial plexus injury giving him nerve damage in his left arm.

“When I was about three years old, they did a surgery called muscle transfer surgery,” Jake explains. “It’s where they move muscles from Chewelah's Jake Jeanneret overcomes adversity and wins state wrestling titleabove my arm and put them down underneath so I could have some range of motion.”

Some range yes, but not as much a most everyone.  Growing up with physical limitations could be frustrating, but not for Jake, nothing was slowing him down.

“He’s so darn competitive in everything he does, I mean I couldn’t even play Wii games with him without getting yelled at for not keeping up or whatever,” remembers Jake’s mom Jesseca.

Jake plays sports with a ton of heart, but also has to use his head.  Jake had to learn to play sports a little differently than everyone else.

“Jake just always found a way,” his dad Luke says. “No matter what the limitations were, no matter what he shouldn’t be able to do, he just did it.”

Jake does admit there are times it slows him down on the field, but also says, he doesn’t know anything different.

“When I’m wrestling I’m like gosh, I could have pinned him right there, and baseball was real tough,” Jake remembers.

Chewelah's Jake Jeanneret was the teams starting quarterback for three seasonsIn his high school career at Chewelah, Jake didn’t just play sports, he led his teams.  Jake was the teams starting quarterback for three seasons, he plays outfield and pitches on the baseball team, but the place he shined the most was on the wresting mat.  Jake’s Junior wrestling season was capped off by an incredible state championship.

“You go out there and you’ve got the hype before, then you wrestle and you win it, you’re like ‘wow’,” Jake says with a smile.  “That’s it, I’ve worked all year for this and I got it, it’s pretty sweet, it gives me chills just thinking about it.”

“He expected it,” his dad says. “I don’t know that we completely expected it, you know we knew he could do it, but it was one of those things where when he did it, it was pretty incredible.”

“After it was over, they raise his arm and he runs to us,” his mom added.  “Then he ran back out to the middle of the mat and held his arm up and that’s when it hit me.”

Jake used his right hand to lift his left arm over his head with the number one on his left hand.

“To really think about what he was doing and what he was trying to show when he did that, he was saying this is really hard for me to do and I did it,” his mom says proudly.

A very untimely knee injury just before the post season kept Jake from defending his title this year, which he was favored to do.  But he stuck with his brother and his teammates helping coach them through the state tournament.

Jake now heads to college where he will study to be a Math teacher and a coach, and he hopes to return to Chewelah to do so.

“For me it’s watching a small town kid that got a lot of help and a lot of encouragement, and understands giving back,” his dad says proudly.  “He knows what it means to those other kids in the community, the little guys that look up to him.”

Jake Jeanneret becomes the fifth person to be awarded the Jace Malek Award For Toughness, he joins Jeff Hinz of Post Falls, Rodrick Fisher of East Valley, Tim “Serna” Bartini of West Valley, and Ryan Burgess of U-hi.