Running steady

College is a tough transition for even the most weathered student. New faces, new classes and new opportunities present a unique experience to all who answer the call. Throw in a new country and a sport that’s in season 10 months of the year and the challenge almost seems surreal.

Hailing from Santa Cruz, Jamaica, Kerry-Ann Blackwood has made that transition, and done so with flying colors. The junior has fast evolved into a dedicated student and a star track and field athlete. A standout at both indoor and outdoor meets, Blackwood is an integral part of the team. “This year, she’s been lights-out for us,” said Kebba Tolbert, head coach of Portland State Track and Field.

With a long, full runner’s gait, Blackwood appears to be the consummate athlete as she glides across the track. This, however, hasn’t always been the case. “She got off to a slow start in my system and struggled for a year,” Tolbert said. “But she’s a hard worker and made it, and other athletes can look to her as a leader.”

Blackwood’s dedication is not lost on her teammates, and serves as a constant source of inspiration. “She’s improved a lot and come a long way,” senior Meghann Quinn said. “She is a hard worker and a lot of people see that.”

Blackwood’s hard work and dedication are more important than ever as conference championships loom on the horizon. Northern Arizona University will host the cream of the Big Sky crop on Wednesday and Blackwood is looking to unleash her triple threat of running, jumping and hurdling on the rest of the conference. “It’s a feeling of wanting to let loose on everyone,” Blackwood said. “As a team we have so much to offer.”

A strong performance at the conference championships would mean an opportunity to compete at the national level for the Hampton School graduate. Though certainly a remarkable measure of success, Blackwood has other motives for striving for a Nationals bid. “I want to make it to Nationals for my mom,” Blackwood said. “She raised me as a single parent. If I made it to Nationals, it would be my gift to her.”

In a sport of individual accomplishments, the concept of team is vital to Blackwood. Citing mental toughness as the most important aspect of being a successful track athlete, she points to the team as a close second. “Hearing your team cheer really helps get you through,” Blackwood said.

Kerry-Ann Blackwood initially chose Portland State University because there were two other women from Jamaica on the track and field team. Since then, however, she has found a niche as a student and blossomed as a person. The psychology major takes a deep personal responsibility for her schoolwork and welcomes the challenges associated with being a student athlete. “Discipline is important,” Blackwood said. “It takes a lot to come out [to practice] six days a week and take care of academics.”

Though Track and Field is a hectic sport, Blackwood relishes the opportunity to accomplish things she never thought possible. As midterms rear their ugly head and the pressure of conference championships takes its toll, Kerry-Ann Blackwood has discovered a formula that holds true on the track and off: “Your body can do whatever you tell it; it’s your mind you have to conquer.”