Balancing academics and track and field is crucial to former Rusea’s High’s middle distance runner Ackeen Colley who was last week named on the Big 12 Conference all-academic first team for the NCAA Division One indoor season.
The former ISSA Champs and County of Cornwall Athletics Association Western Championships gold medallist, who was in his second season at the University of Oklahoma, is among six Jamaican athletes name on the honours list, but the only Jamaican male on the first team.
Colley, who is a biology major and wants to become a nurse, has a GPA of 3.54, which he hopes to improve.
“This should increase by the end of this semester,” he stressed, after completing his final set of exams.
To be named on the first team, student athletes have to score 3.20 on their GPA and upwards out of 4.0 maximum, while the second team nominees had to score between 3.0 and 3.19.
The Balaclava, St Elizabeth native who also attended Maggotty High, but did not start competing in track and field until he switched to Rusea’s High, joins former Manchester High jumper Shanae McKenzie, who is now at Kansas State, and former Edwin Allen High heptathlon champion Peter-Gay McKenzie, now at West Virginia, on the first team.
On the second team are former St Jago High runner Ivan Henry, now at Kansas; former Jamaica College jumper O’Brien Wasom, now at the University of Texas, and former St Jago runner Lavaun Stephenson, who attends Kansas State.
With Colley’s sights set firmly on going into the medical field after he completes his college career, he told the Observer West, that “maintaining a high GPA is very important for me because I am planning to go to nursing school and some nursing programmes are very competitive.”
Asked which was more important, doing well in his classes or on the track, Colley said, “for me both success on the track and in the classroom are important.
“They both have their up and down moments, but I’ve mastered the art of working well under pressure,” he argued.
The middle distance runner, who runs both the 800m and 1500m and can also contribute to the 4x400m relays, said he is not happy with his indoor season after missing out on a place in the NCAA Indoors national.
“My indoor season was good I should say, but I was a bit disappointed,” he stressed.
“Up to the Big 12 Conference meet, I was in the top 16 nationally for the 800m, and I had high hopes of making it to NCAA nationals, but unfortunately I missed it by eight spots after the conclusion of all the conference championships.”
The Indoors rules see the top 16 from the entire country qualifying for the National Championships, and after running his college best 1:49.09 seconds at a meeting in Arkansas in February, Colley could only managed 1:50.18 seconds for fourth place at the Big12 Indoors Conference, missing the cut off.
With the disappointment of the indoor season behind him, Colley said he had set his sights on the outdoors, adding that the cancellation of the outdoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic is yet another setback for him.
“I was in shock when I saw that the 2020 outdoor season was cancelled. This affected me mentally, because I had so much planned, but I had to adjust to the changes quickly and try to stay strong,” he argued.
The 2020 outdoors was to be his big push for a place on the Jamaican team for the Olympic Games that were originally scheduled for Tokyo, Japan, he told the Observer West.
“I always thought 2020 was going to be my breakthrough year where I would make an appearance on the national team to the 2020 Olympics, but stuff do happen. Now, I just have to go back to training and focus on 2021,” he argued.
Before he switched to Oklahoma, Colley enrolled in Division 2 American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he was a two- time NCAA national qualifier as a freshman, both indoors and outdoors, and gained the attention of several high-powered Division One programmes.
“I had a good experience at American International College, but I wanted to make an appearance on the big stage. That’s why I transferred,” he said, adding that choosing Oklahoma was because of “the level of accomplishment of the coach”.
“I knew he was capable of making me into the person I wish to become. He had all the tools necessary,” said Colley.
Had he got the chance to run outdoors this spring, Colley who was ranked number seven in the 800m in the Big12 indoors, was hoping he would have surpassed his fourth-placed finish in the Big12 outdoors the year before, as well as qualifying for the West Regionals and possibly the NCAA Nationals.
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