Published in Macalester Today
Since its first Olympic gold in 1948, Jamaica's rich track and field legacy has made the sport wildly popular there. Merge that tradition with a history of Jamaican students enrolling at Mac, and it's no surprise that three of the nine Jamaicans on campus right now are members of the track team.
“Going to track meets has been part of my family culture as far back as I can remember,” says Alexa Simpson '13 (St. Elizabeth), a math and economics major and a captain of the women's team. “Jamaicans love track and field. Watch a clip of our high school championships and look into the stands, and you'll understand the support for young athletes.”
“When Coach Martin Peper first called me a student–athlete, I knew Macalester was the place for me.”
Track was a key part of Simpson's college search, but she also wanted to see how athletes fit into the rest of campus life. She visited Macalester after being admitted, and liked what she saw so much that she paid her deposit on the way out. “When Coach Martin Peper first called me a student–athlete, I knew Macalester was the place for me,” Simpson says. “I'm a student first and an athlete second, but connecting the terms shows that both are part of who I am.”
All three Jamaican runners—Brent Campbell '13 (St. Catherine) and Damion Prendergast '15 (Mandeville) round out the group—found Macalester through A-Quest, a Jamaican college prep course run by Dennis Minott. Minott works with international admissions staffer Jimm Crowder to tell Jamaican students about Mac.
Before enrolling, both Campbell and Prendergast spoke with Kwame Gayle '11, another Jamaican who ran track. They along with Simpson say that getting advice from Mac students played a crucial role in their decision to enroll at a school so far from home. As a result, they, too, reach out to prospective students now whenever they can.
Because all three are enjoying their track team experience, they also pitch in with athletic recruiting. “When we discover they can run, we try to convince other Jamaicans to join the team,” says Campbell.