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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

‘Inches to go’

Photo by Graphic courtesy of Pranay Dhoopar
Lamara Distin

Hanover Parish, located on the most western point of the island, is the smallest parish in all of Jamaica. Despite the parish’s size, however, it is home to an athlete that stands taller than the rest, or more appropriately, reach higher.
Texas A&M senior high jumper Lamara Distin, at just 22, has already accomplished milestones most will never achieve in a lifetime. NCAA National Champion, a gold medal in the 2022 British Commonwealth Games and the Jamaican high jump record are just a few of the impressive accolades Distin holds.
However, Distin, who is now distinguished for her high jumping, actually did not start her track career in the event.
“So in primary school, I was a 200-meter, 400-meter and 800-meter runner,” Distin said. “Then I went to high school, and in Jamaica, the young ones — at 15 years old — they’re not able to compete in the 400 and 800. So, I would’ve had to sit out that year. Then my coach was like, ‘Let’s try something different.’ So I started high jump, and it wasn’t going too bad. Then I just fell in love with it and here I am.”
Although Jamaica has an illustrious track history, field events are underrepresented. Because of this, Distin said she faced minimal competition in high school.
“There weren’t much people that were so good you would be able to compete against them,” Distin said. “It’s just always been me doing high jump in high school.”
When it came time to choose a college, Distin elected to go to a school similar to home, but not too close to it.
“I chose Texas A&M because Jamaica is not really a cold place, it’s always warm,” Distin said. “The other schools that were recruiting me, like Florida, I didn’t want to go to Florida because it was too close to home.When I came on a visit [to A&M], I said this definitely feels like home.”
A&M coach Pat Henry said his connection with former Jamaican athletes played a role in getting Distin on campus.
“She was a Jamaican athlete, I’ve had a lot of Jamaican athletes over the years,” Henry said. “She knew some of the past people that we’ve had and some of the people that I have had over the years, so I think she was comfortable with me being head coach and I had a really good jump coach. So, she picked an institution which was going to be good to her on a number of issues.”
Although Distin faced minimal opposition in high school, she said that the jump to NCAA-level competition was an eye-opening experience.
“When I came to college I was like, ‘Dang, all these girls are good,’” Distin said. “So I feel like the first year when I was here, I paid attention to all of the college athletes. I feel like that helped me transition into performing how I am right now.”
Distin adjusted well to college high jumping, winning an NCAA championship in 2022. Even with all of Distin’s international prowess, she said her drive still stems from her home-grown dreams and her family’s support.
“[My parents would] always sit with me, talk with me and be like, ‘This sport can bring you as far as you can. So, if you love the sport, why not?’” Distin said. “So with that I’m just always saying, let me just go to practice and do the best I can. Just try to live my dream, because it’s always been a dream of mine to become a professional athlete.”
Even now, despite being an entire country away, Distin said she still manages to find time to talk to her parents every day, and they still push her to succeed.
“They’re always like,‘Just keep going,’” Distin said.“As my mom always says most times when I feel down, or I feel some-thing isn’t right or it’s not going the way I want it to, they’re just always like, ‘You’ll get there.’”
Distin says her parent’s religious values also helped motivate her.
“They’re just always trusting God,” Distin said. “They always tell me, ‘Believe in God and everything happens for a reason.’ That’s one quote that my mom always tells me, everything happens for a reason. So when something happened, I always say, ‘Maybe it’s just for a reason.’ I’m gonna just put it behind me and just move forward.”
Alongside support from her parents, Distin also said that she is self-driven by her lifelong goal of becoming a professional athlete.
“I want to be a professional athlete, so I just feel my dream, what I want to become is always gonna push me forward,” Distin said. “So with that, I always say, ‘I need to do this.This is my dream. Let’s just do this Lamara.’ If something’s not going right, I always say,‘You got this.’”
With all of the acclaim surrounding Distin’s name, Henry believes that she still has room for improvement and can be even better than she already is with proper training and execution as Distin reaches for her goal of becoming a professional athlete.
“We’re working on not just skill development but on strength levels,” Henry said. “Getting better in the weight room, getting stronger. All of that relates on her ability to jump higher. Learning how to eat better food, learning how to sleep right, learning how to hydrate. That doesn’t sound like those are important for a high jumper, but they really are. High jump is like most track events. Your mental abilities have to be really good to be really good.”
As an NCAA athlete, the mental aspect of the game is something the general public forgets about, and Distin said it takes a conscious effort to block out all of the noise from the outside.
“Everybody’s supposed to know about injuries and everything, but most times if you actually jump low, no one knows what you’re going through,” Distin said. “They’re just going to think, ‘She’s not doing good anymore.’That’s not the case, because you do not know what that person is going through. I feel like it is always the people that do not know much about track that are always talking.”
With the emergence of social media, athletes like Distin face constant antagonization from outside sources, and it plays a part in mental health.
“I remember one time I was at indoor nationals and I had an ankle injury, so I wasn’t performing the best,” Distin said. “I jumped 1.82, and I think Aggie Track posted a photo. I came in ninth in indoor nationals, and someone commented a bad comment on it and I was so sad. These people don’t even know what I’m going through, but they’re just gonna always talk … They just need to understand athletes, don’t just look at the results.”
Despite some of the negative comments, Distin has learned ways to tune out all of the noise.
“I just always try to listen to my music, and try to stay off social media as much as possible, especially when it’s competition time,” Distin said.“People are always going to be negative, so doing that really helped me. So I just listen to music, talk with my friends and just enjoy life.”
As Distin begins to close out her college career, Henry believes she still has a ways to go but the sky’s the limit for her future and big things could be on the horizon as she chases her dream of becoming a professional athlete.
“I think [her future] is untold right now,” Henry said. “She is one of those really, special talents. She’s not mature in her high jumping yet, she’s got lots of things to get better at, and so I think the future is big for Lamara. She’s got a lot of inches to go.”

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