Florida Track Star Jumps Her Way To Rio
By: Daniel Lively and Jake Wolf
With less than two months remaining until the start of the 2016 Rio Olympics, many young Americans are fulfilling their dreams of representing their country. Next month, one Florida track athlete will get the opportunity to earn that honor. Rising junior Darrielle McQueen will be traveling to Oregon in July for the chance to compete in the triple jump this summer’s Olympics.
McQueen, a Tallahassee native, began jumping around the age of 8. At North Florida Christian High School, Darrielle began training at a varsity level at the in the fifth grade. At the high school level, she earned five individual triple jump state championships and two first place finishes in long jump. After being a highly prized recruit, she chose to attend the University of Florida over a variety of other options. “I love the coaching staff here”, McQueen said, “I loved the team chemistry I saw here when I came on my visit, I just loved everything about Florida.”
For the past two years, Darrielle has jumped with the women’s track team at the University of Florida. In her freshman season, she finished in sixth place in the triple jump and seventh in the long jump at the 2015 Outdoor SEC Championships. At UF, Darrielle has competed in both the long jump and the triple jump at major events. When asked about the challenges faced with competing in two events, McQueen said, “You have to be very dual-minded, that’s the term we use here at the University of Florida. If you have a bad day in long jump per se, then you get ready for triple jump. You switch gears and handle yourself in that event.”
For McQueen, the Olympics have always been a dream. Since a young age, she has envisioned herself competing on the world’s greatest stage. “I would love to represent my country,” McQueen said. “I would love to represent the University of Florida and my family. If I were blessed to make the Olympic team, I would definitely enjoy the ride.”
From July 1–10, top athletes from around the country will all look to fulfill their dreams at the Track and Field Olympic Trials. While the competition is tight, Darrielle believes she is ready. Instead of training any differently than normal, she’s getting ready the same as always. “I’m just sticking to what works”, McQueen said, “Same routine, I won’t change anything this close to trials or this late in the season.”
In July, McQueen will be competing not only for herself, but for her family. Since her days in elementary school, Darrielle’s biggest supporters have always been her parents. She shared a special relationship with her father, who passed away at the end of her freshman year. “He would call me every single day and ask, how was practice?” McQueen said, “My biggest motivation is just to work hard and make him proud”.
A week after her father’s passing, Darrielle took twelfth at the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Championships, nearly surpassing her personal best. “I would get sad sometimes and miss him a lot, but I knew this is what he wanted me to do,” McQueen said. “This was the last thing he asked me to do, to compete. I know that me competing is making him happy and making him smile, so that’s definitely been what’s carried me through it so far.” She hopes to again make her father proud next month in Eugene.
Coach Mike Holloway is the head coach of the Track and Field team at UF. Darrielle, done with her second year of college, has developed a special relationship with Coach Holloway over the past two years. “I will always remember the manner in which she handled the news that her father had passed away,” Coach Holloway said. “Her strength and grace during that time was truly amazing.”
Both on and off the track, Darrielle is the definition of class. No matter what she is doing, she puts her absolute all into it.
McQueen has a rigorous training schedule to become the best athlete that she can be, but she still manages to be on the All-SEC academic honor roll. “I learned to go to practice, go to class, and handle what I need to handle first,” McQueen said. “You have to prepare yourself.”
Darrielle’s understanding of priorities is one of the main factors in her successful track career, along with her hard-working nature. “Both on and off the track, Darrielle is the definition of class,” Coach Holloway said. “No matter what she is doing, she puts her absolute all into it.” The bond she shares with her coaches and her family will be the keys to Darrielle’s success in Oregon.