Shameka Marshall renews passion for track and field.
When asked about her track career in high school, track and field assistant coach Shameka Marshall just sat back and laughed.
“It’s funny, I actually hated track back then,” Marshall said. “I thought to myself, I only have eight years to do this and I’m done.”
While certainly not the response to be expected from the United States’ seventh best long jumper in the country, it provides a good contrast from her outlook in 1999 to her career today.
Marshall is a professional USA Track and Field long jumper, who is looking to make her third attempt at Olympic qualification. She recently competed in the Pan-American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico and captured the silver medal.
“It was incredible,” Marshall said. “The competition was amazing. I’ve never been more excited about being at any other meet than that one.”
Marshall’s first jump at Pan-Am was her best of the day, but Brazilian jumper Maurren Maggi surpassed her in the final results. Still, the silver medal sat just fine with Marshall.
“I remember standing there and saying to myself, ‘I just got the silver medal,’” Marshall said. “It was an amazing experience.”
When discussing her accolades, Marshall referred back to the high school years where she discovered that she had a natural talent.
During her high school years, Marshall was a standout. She excelled not only in the long jump, but in sprints and hurdles as well. Division-I programs began to take notice in the Quinton, N.J. native and Marshall received a full scholarship to attend Rutgers University.
“My career started to build from [Rutgers],” Marshall said. “At first I didn’t even want to take the scholarship. I really didn’t like track, but I thought to myself, ‘I have a gift and it would be a shame to waste it.’”
Marshall might not have known it when she arrived at Rutgers, but she was about to embark on an illustrious career.
During her four years as a Scarlet Knight, Marshall became the school-record holder in both the indoor and outdoor long jump, as well as the record holder for the 60-meter dash, 60-meter hurdles, 100-meter hurdles and a leg for the record holding 4×100 and 4×200-meter relay teams. Marshall finished as a two-time All-American and the NCAA national runner up in the long jump in 2006.
The success Marshall saw in college motivated her to take the next step and compete professionally after college. However, it was at this point where she began to come face to face with reality.
“The two following years after I graduated from college, I really struggled,” Marshall said. “I had everything pretty much laid out for me and had no worries [at Rutgers]. But after I graduated, all of the sudden I needed a job, a place to live and not to mention a place to train.”
“I had no money at all and all of the sudden I found myself close to giving track up altogether,” Marshall added. “It was a really hard time, but I had the support from my family and my coaches, and I got through it.”
When all seemed lost, it was a three-month trip to the Olympic Training Center in San Diego, that helped Marshall advance in her career as a long jumper.
“I went up there to just get my mind back on track,” Marshall said. “I just went up there blindly with no place to stay, but I knew I had to go to keep my dream alive. I stayed at a friend’s place for two weeks and at the Center for the rest of it, and it really helped.”
As things began improving for Marshall, she picked up an assistant coaching position with Temple in 2008. Marshall now uses some of the methods and tricks from her technique to help the men and women’s track and field team.
“You don’t want to have fear going into a race or event,” Marshall said. “If you have fear, you’re kind of hesitating and you don’t want to go into anything hesitating, you want to go into it full blast.”
“That’s how I approach it myself and it’s little things like that that I try to teach the kids here,” Marshall added.
While she coaches at Temple, she still competes for team USA and is looking to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics. In order to make the USA Olympic Track and Field Team, long jumpers need to place in the Top 4 at the Olympic qualifier meet.
At the past Olympic qualifiers, Marshall finished 21st in 2004 and was seventh in 2008.
“In 2004, it was just really cool,” Marshall said. “I jumped right before [world champion track star Marion Jones] and it was an amazing feeling. It was just an honor to be there.”
This year Marshall is ranked seventh in the qualifiers field and said she wants to make 2012 the year she makes the Olympic team.
“I’m putting all of my energy into right now and this upcoming Olympics,” Marshall said. “It’s time to move up the ladder, and for right now, it’s looking good and we’ll just have to see.”
Drew Parent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.