Longhorns set to compete in Jamaica National Senior Championships
June 27, 2012
AUSTIN, Texas -- As the world turns its attention to London for this summer's Olympic Games, the Texas Track and Field family is making its mark at home and abroad.
This week, three athletes with strong ties to UT will chase their Olympic dream at the 2012 Jamaica National Senior Championships at the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica.
The four-day meet begins Thursday, as the U.S. Olympic Track Trials forge into their second week in Oregon. These championships are essentially Jamaica's own track trials.
"The sprints are a very attractive scene in Jamaica," Stewart says. "A lot of people and tourists will come see it. We have a lot of great sprinters, so it's very tough to make the team."
Stewart is UT's school record holder in the 110 hurdles, with a time of 13.44 that he set as a sophomore in the NCAA Championships. He says his goal for the Jamaica championships is to run somewhere near 13.30, and then see where that sets him on the podium.
"That's been my goal for the season," Stewart says. "If I do get that, I'll be happy."
Even a fourth place finish might be enough for Stewart to qualify for his nation's team. He says Jamaica typically takes one alternate.
"But you never run (if you're an alternate)," he says. "I'd go to meet LeBron (James) and Kobe (Bryant)."
Though Smith was raised in Connecticut, both her parents are from Jamaica and then came to America in their 20's. That heritage allows Smith the opportunity to pursue her dream of becoming an Olympian.
"I feel like what's best for me right now as a runner is to go over there and compete," Smith says.
Smith just completed her athletic eligibility at UT. She was an All-American in 2010 and earned 10 All-Big honors. This season, she was hampered by hamstring and ankle injuries, but those ailments allowed Smith to gain a stronger mental approach to races.
Oftentimes, she was grinding through severe pain in practice sets.
"I was ready to give up on myself, but Coach Bev (Kearney) didn't," Smith says. "I made a complete turnaround."
Smith persisted to make the 400 meter finals at the Big 12 Outdoor Championships and ended up finishing fifth.
"This season has had its ups and downs, but Coach Bev always motivated me to continue to fight," she said. "This would be a dream come true to make the Olympic team, and be one step closer to my ultimate dream of becoming a professional athlete.
"This is such a huge blessing to be able to go over there and compete in the first place."
Malone hails from the British Virgin Islands, but because her country's track program is small, BVI athletes compete in Jamaica for a qualifying time.
As a UT senior in 2011, Malone finished fifth and sixth in the long jump and triple jump, respectively, at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. While her collegiate career was defined by jumping, Malone says she'll compete in the 400 in Jamaica.
Malone ran a 52.35 in 2010 at the Texas Invite, her collegiate best in the 400.
"I think I have great potential in the 400, so that's why I'm leaning toward it," she said.
Malone trained through high school at a facility that was mostly dirt and grass - "not an actual track," she says - and during those years, her passion for the sport was unveiled.
Now, one year into being a professional track athlete, Malone finds herself with different challenges like fishing for meets to compete in and earning money. But the passion that pushed her as a youngster continues to drive her today.
"It's something you really have to work for," Malone says. "The combination of the coaching staff, facilities and the opportunities we have at UT prepares you for anything. It's every athlete's dream to be an Olympian. For me, accomplishing that goal would mean so much for my country back home. That's part of my motivation."