As the minutes crept closer to the season-opening Jack Pyrah Invitational, two freshmen on the team – Jimmia McCluskey and Bionca St. Fleur – had a mix of emotions.
McCluskey said she was nervous, but confident. St. Fleur said she wanted to prove that she could compete at the college level.
By the time the meet had ended, St. Fleur ended up taking fifth in the long jump, while McCluskey snagged a fourth-place finish in the 60-meter dash. In the months since their collegiate debuts, both Owls have established themselves as two of the top performers on the team – especially in their work on the 4×100 meter relay team.
St. Fleur is a Boston native, where she attended Melrose High School and became a state champion, qualifying for the national championships in New York and leading her team to undefeated seasons in her junior and senior years.
McCluskey is from Aberdeen, Md., and was also a state champion at her high school in the long jump. Her team was regional and conference champions in her junior season.
McCluskey and St. Fleur described a smooth transition to the Temple track & field team.
“They really welcomed us in like family and were willing to show us the ropes,” St. Fleur said.
Many on the track team look to Gabe Pickett of the men’s team as a role model and someone to guide younger athletes on the team, like St. Fleur and McCluskey.
“They were really able to come in and fill a void left on our team in the long jump category and have had good finishes in the sprints as well,” Pickett said.
The girls continued their hot start at the Rutgers Invitational where McCluskey seized first place and St. Fleur finished in third.
“I felt good because I came in first and it gave me a boost of confidence,” McCluskey said. “I felt like I was able to keep up with the competition and show my talent.”
The two dropped in the standings at the Terrier Invitational, where St. Fleur finished 26th and McCluskey finished 29th in the 200-meter race. They still ran personal bests.
Four weeks ago, the pair jumped back up to the top of the pack as they teamed with sophomores Courtney Mitchell and Demeshia Davis to finish third in the North Carolina Outdoor relays.
“It was a bit of an adjustment with working out and all of the lifting we did, but now I can see where [the energy] is coming from,” St. Fleur saod.
Coach Eric Mobley said this adjustment is something he expects from freshmen on the team.
“I am glad they see this transition as stepping stones and they are not freaking out about not winning right away,” Mobley said.
Living on Main Campus has produced another side of college life, presenting advantages and challenges for both girls.
“I like it,” McCluskey said. “It is just the idea of being able to do things on your own, so I like the freedom.”
“I think I would have enjoyed my freshman year more if I didn’t have to balance track and school,” St. Fleur said. “It is hard, but I think I am getting better at it.”
Both athletes have individual benchmarks in mind, but St. Fleur holds a more team-orientated goal.
“I would like for us as a collective go far,” St. Fleur said. “I think for all of us were to go to ECCs or nationals, that would be very cool.”
Stephen Godwin Jr. can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @StephenGodwinJr.