Senior runner reflects on team, season

By Ed Rietveld

One senior member of the track program truly personifies what it means to be a student athlete, and that’s senior Jenelle McCalla.

McCalla, a sprinter and hurdler, set two school records while competing in track: One in the 400 hurdles with a time of 1:01.76, and one from when she was a part of NIU’s 4×400-meter relay record-holding team.

McCalla, a Whitby, Ontario, native, also competed in the 60-meter hurdles at the 2013 MAC Indoor track championships.

On April 21, she was awarded the first outstanding student athlete award by NIU’s honors program. McCalla will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She has maintained a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

McCalla said it has been hard to balance her academic success and success on the field.

“It was so challenging,” she said. “I mean, you lose sleep [and] you’re worried about both, and I mean I’m the type of person [that] I wanna try and excel in everything that I do, in every aspect, and it bothers me when I don’t, So, it was very challenging, you kinda live with it, you learn to work with it, and at the end of the day it’s a skill that you develop, and I’d say I can use throughout my life.”

Connie Teaberry, track and field head coach, said she cares deeply about what her athletes do in the classroom and what they do on the track.

“I guess I’m a little different than most athletic coaches,” Teaberry said. ”My first and foremost [objective] is that they are student athletes, that student part is first. I am happier with invitations to their graduation, you know, that I am with anything that they do on the track because the track part can only go so far. The academic piece is what’s gonna get them through life.”

The native of Canada said it took some time to adjust to the United States more serious sporting culture.

“It differs a lot.” McCalla said. “I mean, again the training: You don’t train every day [in Canada]. Here in America I’d say as compared to Canada you guys really value your athletics. You’re in it for the long haul, and in Canada I mean it’s, ‘Oh, you’re great,’ great, like that’s great. You have a coach that works with you also, which [helps,] but you guys put your heart and soul into it. So, I mean…adjusting to having to work every day at it was definitely… it was interesting but I also enjoyed it.”

McCalla said she will miss one big part of the track team at the end of her career.

“I’d have to say the bus rides going to and from the track meets,” McCalla said. “I mean, the way we talk to one another, the team dynamics … it’s really great, it’s really warm, everyone’s joking and laughing and that kind of stuff.”