Feb. 20, 2012
Vol rookie Jamol James experienced some serious life changes in January. He came to a new country, started his first semester of college at UT, joined the track & field team just before the season began, and jumped into collegiate competition at the Kentucky Invitational. He finished third in the 60m dash at that meet, by the way, running a time of 6.78.
Since then, James, a freshman from Chaguanas, Trinidad & Tobago, has continually bettered his personal record in the 60m, culminating in his first win at the Akron Invitational with a career-best readout of 6.72.
Without getting ahead of himself, James maintains a level head about his performance capabilities this season. Although he has hopes of attending an NCAA meet, he knows that without the pre-season training other sprinters completed to improve their times, he might not make it. With that knowledge, he continues to look toward next year as the year when he wants to, and seriously believes he can, make it to the national finals.
You have competed a lot on the junior international level. How is that different from running in college?
"It's different, first of all, because in college, you're dealing with men. In high school, it's just juniors. A lot of people in college are really men. It's a different game, so you have to step up. It's different because of the age categories."
What was the recruiting process like for you?
"Very stressful. Back and forth with schools. Some schools were saying that they want you but they aren't talking. It was a lot of back and forth. And then, finally, in my last race, nobody knew who I was, and I told myself that after that race I wasn't going to run again, and that happened to be the race that Coach (John) Frazier saw me in and told me that he wanted to offer me a full scholarship. He isn't even a track coach, he's a field event coach. It (the recruiting process) was very stressful overall."
How are you adjusting to university and to this team?
"Everything has been good so far. I've been out of school for about a whole year, so trying to readjust and go back into the classroom has been a little difficult, but I'm getting back into my rhythm."
Do you feel at a disadvantage because you joined the team just before the season began and didn't get to train and lift during the fall?
"Yes. Definitely. In my first few races, I felt like I was at a disadvantage. I asked myself, "Why am I even here?" These guys already had a head start, so I didn't know why I was even trying. But after a while, I just put it away because at the end of the day, nobody really cares about that. They just want to see the performance, so I just put it behind me and just started rolling."
How old were you when you knew you wanted to sprint competitively?
"Probably seven years old."
How did you pick which distance you wanted to run?
"It was easy. I always used to get tired after 100m."
When did you start training seriously to run?
"It was 2002. My first coach, Mr. Goddard, had recruited me to run for a club back in Trinidad. I had just moved into the neighborhood, and I had a friend who used to run, and he was telling his coach, "I have a guy here who runs as well." So he asked if I ran for any other club, and I said no, so he asked if I'd like to run. I said sure. I didn't even know what I was getting myself into. I just said yes."
What is the difference between being on a youth team competing internationally and being on a collegiate team?
"The amount of races. It's about the training, too. The training and preparation of getting ready to run is really different. It's a different atmosphere. The coaches really have their views as to how it should be done. It's kind of hard trying to do what I'm used to doing. In terms of ideas of how it should be done, that's the most challenging part. Trying to fit in your view with their view."
What made you decide to come to Tennessee?
"The coach. He was talking to me very differently than other coaches. Everybody was showing their credentials and looking for the next big thing, but he just found the times I was running (10.3s) were good enough. I just found somebody who appreciates what I do and was willing to work with me and go to the next level with me. So I said I would go here."
What are the biggest difference between Tennessee and Trinidad that you've experienced?
"Cold weather. The people are really nice compared to home. The interactions are different from back home. The food is a lot different, but it's free. I get to eat a lot here, as much as I want to."
What do you miss most about home?
"The ability to have free time. I knew I always wanted to be out here, so it's not a regret, and I knew what I was giving up. So I gave it up because I want to be here."
You were named SEC Freshman of the Week. What does that mean to you?
"It feels special. Back home, you had to promote yourself. You had to show the newspapers and write your own articles about yourself. It feels so good to know you're appreciated for something and that you're not taking second best. Back home, it was all about football (soccer). It feels good to know somebody is writing about you and you don't have to follow up. They took their time to watch my performances and say that I'm good. At the same time, it pleases me to know I ran 6.72 and was praised for that, but I'm not satisfied with that. I want to move forward. I want to go faster than that. I want to be on another level."
Do you have any pre-race or pre-meet superstitions or rituals?
"I don't want people to touch me. Especially if I've just run a good round, I don't want people to touch me."
Do you get nervous before you run? How do you deal with that?
"Yeah. Absolutely. Everybody has a different level of nervousness. Fright, also, to a point. Right now, I've been trying to adjust and work on that. In the next couple of meets, you should see a great difference."
What do you like to do in Knoxville when you aren't in class or training?
"I don't have much choice. I guess there's Thornton. I go there and study. That's the best I can do, because I don't really have much free time. Most of the time I'm in here (Stokely), and then Thornton, and classes. Out of those three, I have to pick something that I like most."
What is your favorite sport to play, or just watch, other than running?
"Football. Not American football, but soccer."
Who are athletes you admire?
"Anybody is doing well for himself. It inspires me to try to be just like them or even better than them. If I see somebody doing something good, I feel like I have to do better than them. It doesn't even have to do with track. Somebody else might inspire you to want to do the best at something that you do."
Do you have any nicknames?
What is the one thing you can't live without?
What do you think about before a race and when you're running?
"Before the race, I think, `just get through this round,' depending on which round it is. If it's the first round, I think, `just complete this and try to get to the next round.' Right now I'm working on getting a better mentality for the race so that instead of going to the race without any thoughts, now I'm trying to have more positive thinking and some hunger. Some football aggression. An aggressive mindset."
What are your expectations for the season?
"I hope to make it to the NCAAs. To me, that's asking for more than my expectations right now, considering I didn't have the benefit of off-season training. I don't have a base. So reaching that far with this little amount, I'm thinking about next year and what it will hold, too. That's my hope. If I do go that far, then I know I can go that much more next year."
Do you prefer 60m or 100m?
"This is a tough one. Of course, I prefer the 100m because no one recognizes the 60m as the number one in the world. If someone asks, `who's the fastest guy in the world?' automatically you think of the 100m, not the 60m. With that said, it doesn't mean I wouldn't like to run a 60m as the fastest man in the world. I would feel more comfortable having that title with the 100m."
How are you preparing for the SEC Championships?
"A lot of training. It's not even preparation, I would say, because they say that we're training through. It's not preparation to say that I'm going to peak at this meet. Next week, gym as usual, training as usual. The main difference to me will be about the mentality. That's the main difference."
What do you consider to be the hardest workout here at UT?
"200m, 300m. I basically don't like anything over 50m. I wish there was a 20m race and we could call it there."
If you could compete in any track or field event other than sprints, what would it be?
"I do jumps as well. I just started jumps. I think I like jumping. I like it evenly with the 100m. But if I was to try something, it would be in the jumps area. I like it as much as the sprinting. I like the long jump more. To me, high jump is for fun. It's nothing I'd take seriously. I'd go flip over the bar. For fun, I like high jump. For seriousness to match running, it's the long jump."
Have you ever tried running long distance?
"Yeah. One time, I thought I could run the long distance. That was a bad idea. I tried a 2K, and by the time we reached 200m, I was like, `Can't this race be finished already?' All the time (previously) I was complaining about why people get injured in long distance. They shouldn't get injured in long distance running! And when I ran more than 100m, I understood. My calves were locked up, my shins hurt, my back hurt. When I was finished, I was asking for the ambulance."