By Sean Collins
Every year, throughout the country, student-athletes go to college under athletic scholarships. But when they get there, they decide they no longer want to be an athlete. Along with the workload of being an athlete, school can be difficult. Besides the amount of classwork, new experiences like classes that don’t take attendance can be problematic for some. The social aspect of college can be distracting as well. However, freshman Jasper Gray, had a different high school experience than many others. Gray, a sprinter on the women’s track and field team, seems to have both athletics and academics under control.
“I went to Advanced Technologies Academy but I ran for Cheyenne High School,” Gray said. “It was a magnet school so there was a lottery situation in order to get in. It wasn’t too big of a school but it wasn’t too small.”
With an enrollment of 40,200 at the University of Arizona and classes with hundreds of students in them, some find it overwhelming. With her first college semester winding down, Gray has kept it all in perspective and handled her business.
“I actually feel I’ve adjusted quite a bit,” Gray said. “School-wise, it’s not too different because my high school had hardcore homework assignments and things like that. To me, classes haven’t been too hard and I’ve adjusted. I think high school really prepared me for college.”
Although the fall semester is very busy for track and field athletes with workouts and practice, Gray knows the spring semester will be far more difficult, especially with so much travel.
“I just have to stay focused,” Gray said. “I’m pretty good at managing my time, sometimes there’s a little laziness but I feel like I get stuff done in a timely manner. Traveling will be really fun but it’s about taking care of business at the same time. I’m just excited to go anywhere (on the schedule) and get the college track experience.”
Gray chose to experience college at Arizona for a variety of reasons. She cited proximity to home as being one of the main reasons.
“Arizona is close to home,” Gray said. “It’s also similar to home with the heat and me being from Las Vegas. When I came on my visit, it just felt like home and I felt like I could adjust really well, like I have ended up doing so far.”
Gray also felt that sprints coach Francesca Green was the coach for her and she has not been disappointed with how her tutelage under coach Green has begun.
“I feel like coach Green is the coach I’ve been needing since high school,” Gray said. “The way she critiques every little thing and how she makes sure you do things right. She pushes you through everything. I feel like she’s a really good coach.”
Gray also cited senior Shapri Romero, a six-time all-conference honoree and two-time NCAA Outdoor All-America in the 4x400-meter relay as a great resource for her in the beginning of her college career. Despite the size difference, Gray, 5-10, feels like Romero, 5-2, has been somewhat of a big sister to her.
“Shapri was actually my host when I came here for my visit,” Gray said. “She is a leader and she helps push you through everything. She’s not a little sister, but like a little big sister, because she’s small. You can ask her about anything and she will give you advice.”
Another first for Gray will be competing on an indoor track. Arizona kicks off the indoor season in January shortly after Christmas break ends. Indoor tracks are typically banked and only 200 meters as opposed to an outdoor track that is 400 meters. Understandably, Gray wants to compete on a banked track before setting any goals for herself.
“I’ve done outdoor track since I was little, but I didn’t know anything about indoor track,” Gray said. “Indoor will be a great experience for me, but I’m not sure what my goals are yet.”
Prior to the start of the indoor season, Gray is looking to lock up a spot on the 4x400-meter relay team. With two of the four legs graduating last spring, including Georganne Moline, there are spots up for grabs. Additionally, Gray aspires to drop around two seconds off of her personal-best time in the 400-meter run.
“For outdoors, I’m mainly a 400-meter runner and I would like to drop two seconds off my time and get down to about 54 seconds,” Gray said. “That’s my goal right now but I’m sure that can change. I’m also trying to earn my position on the 4x400-meter relay team. That’s one of my goals as well.”
Gray will have a chance to impress coach Green on Saturday, Dec. 14, when Arizona hosts the annual Red-White-Blue Meet. The meet is not sanctioned by the NCAA and therefore some of the running events are not standard track and field distances.
“I’m excited for the meet, but I’m a little nervous,” Gray said. “I think I’ll do fine, I’m pretty sure I’ll have to run the 600-meter race, but coach Green hasn’t told us yet. I’ll be fine.”
Although the additional 200 meters may not sound like much, that is a tall task for 400-meter runners. However, with the way Gray has dealt with everything college has thrown at her thus far, there seems to be no reason to worry.