Late bloomer McCluskey ready for breakout senior season

After a late start to the sport and an injury-riddled career, she has the NCAA Championship on her mind.

Senior sprinter and jumper Jimmia McCluskey switched from basketball to track & field as a freshman in high school. She now hopes to compete at the NCAA Championships during her final college season. GENEVA HEFFERNAN | ASST. PHOTO EDITOR

When she was a freshman in high school, Jimmia McCluskey had a false start in her first race at the conference meet.

“At first I was angry with her for false starting,” said John Mobley, McCluskey’s coach at Aberdeen High School in Maryland. “But then I had to think about the fact that her freshman year, she didn’t start running until the middle of  April and it was two weeks before our championship and she had not only qualified, but she was in the finals. That wowed me.”

McCluskey was the first athlete Mobley coached to make the finals after training and competing in an event for only two weeks. He remembers that moment because he knew then that she was someone special.

In 2008, two years before that false start, McCluskey was first encouraged to try out for her school’s track & field team.

“I was playing basketball at the time but the track coaches were like, ‘Oh, you seem fast, you should try out for track,’” McCluskey said. “And from then on I did track.”

Senior sprinter and jumper Jimmia McCluskey concentrates in blocks at a recent practice at the Pavilion. McCluskey placed first in the 60-meter dash on Dec. 9, 2016. GENEVA HEFFERNAN | ASST. PHOTO EDITOR

At first, she wasn’t sold on the sport. McCluskey didn’t see track & field as a realistic, competitive sport for her until she attended the Junior Olympics with her Amateur Athletic Union team in 2009 and compared her abilities to the other athletes.

Now, in her last season as an Owl, McCluskey is again looking at the possibilities track & field can bring her, this time on a larger scale.

With her eyes set on competing at the 2017 NCAA Championship and setting personal records in all of her events, McCluskey is on the right track. For the first time in her collegiate career, she started the season on the active roster without an injury. McCluskey had to deal with hamstring injuries during her first three years at Temple.

While her body is in good shape, in order to accomplish her goals, McCluskey will have to overcome her mind.

“I knew I was able to do certain things, but sometimes my nerves and confidence would hold me back from actually doing what I knew my standards were and what I could be doing,” McCluskey said. “That is one of the things I’ve been trying to build on over the years.”

In the only meet she’s competed in this season, McCluskey got first place in the 60-meter dash and missed her personal record by .03 seconds. That finish has assistant coach Tramaine Ellison excited about what McCluskey could be able to accomplish this season.

“At the meet she competed at she said something that every coach wants to hear,” Ellison said. “She said she was upset, and I asked, ‘Why?’ And she said because she wanted a chance to run again so she could fix her mistakes. The fact that she knew if she had a chance to run another round that she could have bettered tells me that she is very tuned into her training and she knows where she is in her season.”

In addition to the 60, McCluskey will also compete in the long jump, the 100 meter and the 200 meter for the Owls.

After she graduates, McCluskey plans to pursue a career in recreational therapy and continue to compete in track & field. McCluskey wants to be sure she will be remembered before she leaves.

“I want to make my mark here at Temple,” she said. “I want to have something good next to my name and I want to represent Temple in a good way as far as athleticism and academics.”

Tessa Sayers can be reached at

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