(ZU MEDIA) — For most freshmen, the idea of leaving home is terrifying. This new life of independence has the potential to generate moments of confusion and discomfort.
These everyday pressures are nearly certain to develop and intensify amongst international students, since they are forced to adapt to a new culture. However, for freshman track sprinter Mechaela Hyacinth, these pressures motivate her.
Growing up in Gros Islet, Saint Lucia, a sovereign island country in the Eastern Caribbean, Hyacinth had a big family. She lived with her parents, Michael and Filia, and her four older sisters, Kimma, Kisha, Kennia and Fedonia. Hyacinth’s relationship with her family continues to be incredibly strong; she describes them as her support system.
Along with teaching her the importance of moral values and dedication, Hyacinth’s father introduced her to one of her biggest passions — running. At a young age, her father would take her to an open field of grass and they would simply run, enjoying the beautiful weather and sceneries of Saint Lucia.
When Hyacinth was 10, she was invited to compete at an invitational track and field meet. This memory was her earliest indicator that running would be an important part of her youth.
“I can’t really remember the outcome of the meet, but I vividly remember that feeling of enjoyment while competing, and I knew I wanted to do it again,” Hyacinth said. “That’s where it all sort of began.”
Following the meet, Hyacinth joined a club team in her hometown, and she continued developing as a sprinter by racing for her high school. In 2016, Hyacinth competed at the IAAF World U20 Championships in Columbia, an annual competition that invites athletes from across the world under 20 years old to compete. Hyacinth advanced to the semi-finals of the 100-meter dash where she finished in 11.87 seconds.
Hyacinth’s incredible skill brought her to APU’s track and field team. Since the end of the 2016 season, both the men’s and women’s teams have swept the Pacific West Conference Championships. With the addition of Hyacinth, assistant coach Andrea Blackett hopes to add to that success.
“Coming from a different background she provides a completely new perspective, and she’s had to overcome a lot of injuries due to the environmental changes” Blackett said. “But she has such a strong work ethic and her body is beginning to adjust. We’re excited to watch her compete.”
Hyacinth’s path to APU was different than normal student-athletes. She received a multitude of offers to attend other universities, but she quickly chose APU. However, she never toured the campus, nor did she know much about the school’s track and field program. Rather, she said there was some sort of inner voice telling her that joining the Cougars was best for her development as an athlete and human being.
Currently, Hyacinth is training to compete in the 100 and 200-meter races. She is most comfortable when participating in the 4 x 100-meter relay, but Blackett hopes to introduce her to the much longer 4×400 meter relay by the end of the semester. Hyacinth is excited to take on this new challenge, and she is confident that her rigorous training during the offseason has prepared her to succeed.
Hyacinth’s talent is obvious, but many may not notice her unbelievable heart. The coaches have seen her caring nature throughout the year, and each of her teammates have been touched by her humility and goodwill.
“Mechaela is constantly bringing a smile to your face and is one of the most hard working athletes I know,” said teammate Miah Moore. “She is a powerful and graceful young woman, and teammate as well. I can’t wait to see the wonderful things that are in her near future.”
Through her experience at APU, Hyacinth said she is capitalizing on her goal of developing into a responsible and compassionate person.
“The atmosphere here is so great,” Hyacinth said. “The team will always motivate me, and I will always do the same for them. And that relationship is what pushes me to do more and excel as a competitor and person.”
There are high expectations for Hyacinth this season. She could earn a place in APU’s athletic record books; she has the potential to finish top five all-time in sprints.
“I’m honored and blessed,” Hyacinth said. “These expectations will make me work really hard for the people that got me here. I’m just excited to start my journey as a Cougar.”
Hyacinth’s personality seems to embody what any student-athlete hopes to express. There is a major component of modesty that resonates from her upbringing, but her demeanor shows a magnificent level of confidence and commitment. And as a freshman, she only has room to grow.