And now, some six years later, the veteran Carrollton High School girls track and field coach doubts she’ll ever see something that special again.
“She’s the only athlete that I’ve ever coached that did three jumping events at state and excelled at all three of them,” Engram said.
“The year she did that, she set the state record in the pole vault. They were all going on at the same time. She was trying to long jump, triple jump and then got the pole vault record all at the same time, just going back and forth between them all. She had to run from the triple jump and go straight to the long jump. You just don’t ever see that.”
And not only did Peoples, a 2008 Carrollton High graduate, break the Class AAA state pole vault record at 12 feet during her senior season, she destroyed it — besting the old mark by a foot and a half — to win her second individual state title in the event for her prep career.
Peoples, who also won a state crown in the pole vault as a freshman at Northgate High School in Newnan, went on to place third in the triple jump and sixth in the long jump her senior year at state to help lead the Lady Trojans to back-to-back second-place team finishes after they won state in 2006 in her first year with the program.
Peoples still ranks in Georgia’s all-time top-10 with her 12-foot vault — and that’s across all classifications.
“Most people thought she couldn’t be successful because it was too much jumping. But she was the type of athlete that was capable of doing all of them. And that is very unusual,” Engram said.
The Lady Trojan coach said Peoples, who was also an accomplished gymnast and cheerleader, could have actually competed in four field events had she been allowed to, as she could consistently clear 5 feet in the high jump.
Engram reflected on Peoples’ prep days with pride, but the Lady Trojan coach and the entire Carrollton High family have endured a tough week following news of her death on Tuesday, June 19, in Canton, Ohio.
Peoples was just 22.
She is survived by a young daughter, Melena Peoples, along with her mother, Maria Ponder-Peoples of LaFayette, father, William Peoples of East Point, and stepmother, Sandra Peoples of East Point.
She will also be missed by several friends and extended family members whose lives she touched through her charismatic, free-spirited personality.
Funeral services were held Saturday, June 23, at Happy Home Baptist Church in LaFayette. Her family requested that the circumstances of her death not be disclosed.
Peoples, who received a track and field scholarship to Gardner-Webb in North Carolina following high school, had been living in Ohio for about two years and was working for a telemarketing company, according to Engram.
Carrollton High Athletic Director David Brooks was not in his current position when Peoples was in high school, but the former Trojan coach remembers how she stood out as an exceptional athlete in those days.
He said it’s going to be extremely tough to get over such a tragic loss of someone who meant so much to so many.
“I would say Coach Engram is probably the closest to her,” Brooks said. “I know she is trying to help some of her former teammates in Carrollton that have heard the news and are really hurting, so she’s trying to help those young ladies deal with that. I’m sure it’s very difficult for Coach Engram. They had a very close relationship and she’s still very close to the family. It’s just a tough, tough situation.”
Engram noted that as great an athlete as Peoples was, she had a magnetic personality to go with it.
“She was just a very fun person. I mean, she kept everybody laughing all the time. You know, she was just really fun to be around,” Engram said.
And while everyone continues to try and come to grips with the loss of such a special young lady, Engram asks that the community keeps Peoples’ family in its prayers.
“She’s going to be truly missed. She was just someone you couldn’t help but get close to. It’s like she’s my own daughter,” Engram said. “It just doesn’t seem real right now.”