Post by aggierattler on Jul 31, 2021 19:52:37 GMT -5
How many HBCUs ever get mentioned by ROLLING STONE...let alone have an article written about them??
How a HBCU Track Team Made It to the Olympics
First they set the world record — and now, three of the four members of the North Carolina A&T State University track team are competing in Tokyo
By MEAGAN JORDAN Rolling Stone Magazine/RollingStone.com July 31, 2021 @ 10:01 AM
Over the past year, North Carolina A&T State University’s track team has been making history for their record breaking performances. The men and women’s team are the first Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to rank in the top 5 of the NCAA Division I Championships. The men’s 4x400m relay team held the fastest world time this year with a time of 3:00.23.
Now, all but one member of the relay team is going to the 2021 Olympics, despite all four qualifying initially for the games. Trevor Stewart and Randolph Ross Jr. — son of A&T’s track coach and former Olympian Duane Ross — are representing the United States, and Akeem Sirleaf will be representing his home country, Liberia. Daniel Stokes initially qualified for the 4x400m relay team for his mother’s home country of Mexico, but only the top 16 teams get to compete — and Mexico came in at 18. Despite all odds, A&T has proven itself to be a mecca of champions. “I’m elated for our athletes. They worked hard this year and it’s nice to see them be rewarded with those championship finishes,” says head coach Duane Ross. “An Olympian is what nearly every track athlete aspires to be. I’m honored to have helped these athletes reach that dream.”
Rolling Stone spoke to the four members of A&T’s 4x400m relay about life on the track, future dreams and even some of their favorite playlists. With a load of preparation required for the Olympics, including a 15-hour flight, reaching the athletes was a bit difficult. Between Zoom calls, texts and a noisy phone call with Stewart, who is already in Tokyo for the mixed relays taking place July 30th, here is an edited version of those conversations:
Daniel, how did you feel when you received the news that despite qualifying originally, you weren’t going to the Olympics?
Stokes: So, The Olympics only take the top 16 countries for the 4×400 relay. We [Mexico] were 16 but we dropped to 18 during the time of the NCAA Championships, because I wasn’t on the relay. Mexico called me to compete in the Bahamas with their 4×400 to get us into the top 16. We competed with several other countries to at least get a time of 3:02, which was the cut off for the top 16. We ran 3:02, but we didn’t run fast enough. Once I found out, after a few hours of being a little upset, I just had to accept it and let it go. With track and field, you have to be used to accepting things and letting them go because being so caught up can hinder your performance on the track.
Akeem, what’s your story behind running for Liberia ? How did you qualify in the first place?
Sirleaf: Originally, I was born in Africa, Liberia, and then I came to the States when I was five, and we moved to Philadelphia, and then my mom moved to Minnesota when I was in seventh grade. In 2016, after my freshman year in junior college, I qualified for the World Junior Trials in Clovis, California. I ran and competed and qualified to make Liberia’s team, but they disqualified me because they said I took too many steps on the line. I then got a call from Emmanuel Matadi, who is the captain of the Liberian team. He was like “We saw you, we saw your time and we saw that you’re Liberian. Would you consider running for Liberia?” I talked to my mom about it and she was like, “it would be a good opportunity for us to represent your native country and the family. But it’s what you want to do, we’ll support you no matter what.” [Then] I qualified for the 2020 Olympics in 2019 when I ran 45.4 in the 400m and then 20.3 in the 200m. 2019 was like my foot in the door, because prior to that, in 2018, I had to red shirt because I was coming from a Junior college and my credit didn’t transfer over. So, 2018 was just a learning process...