Princeton University triple jumper Damon McLean had a very successful 2012 season. The Jamaican-born McLean, who is in his third year at Princeton University, has just completed a successful sophomore season that saw him garnering All-American honors in the triple jump. During the 2012 season, McLean has established a lifetime best and school record 52’ 7.25”/ 16.03m in the triple jump and has a personal best of 23’ 83.75”/ 7.23m in the long jump. McLean is also the reigning Ivy League triple jump and long jump champion. He plans to build on that success in the 2013 season.
TrackLedger.com (TL) caught up with McLean as he gears up for the 2013 season on the track. He also spoke of his mindset in the classroom and reflected on his journey to becoming a Princeton Tiger.
Goals for the upcoming season
TL: When will you start your season?
McLean: I will be opening up my season in mid- January. I am looking forward to making indoors nationals (NCAA Championship) in both the triple jump and the long jump and to gain more respect.
TL What are you looking to accomplish this season?
McLean: This is my junior year; so this year it’s all about looking to gain respect. Last year, I made it to nationals in the triple jump in my sophomore year after coming off an injury-plagued freshman year. What I did last year was pretty good. This year I have been working on my techniques with my coaches.
TL: What is your target mark for this season?
McLean: My goal is to go over 55’ 1.42” / 16.80m in the triple jump and to make nationals again. In the past, I feel I could have jump further [than my current personal best]. Training has been going good and I feel I am growing and getting better.
TL: What is your favorite event?
McLean: The long jump is my favorite event but it hasn’t click for me as yet. Hopefully, this year it will click for me.
Balancing academics and athletics
TL: What is your major and how are you doing in the classroom?
McLean: I am majoring in Chemistry. Right now I spend about 20 hours per week in the lab. It’s rough when you’re doing track. But I am loving it. Being around some of the great professors is really preparing me for life after track, so I really feel good about that.
TL What career-path do you wish to pursue after college?
McLean: I am doing my best on the track right now so hopefully if I keep on working hard and improving, you just never know. I will see what happens after my first 4 years (at Princeton).
Graduate school is already in the works; Pharmacology is also there. I love being in the lab and I am eventually looking forward to working with some of the big pharmaceutical companies making medicine.
TL: How do you balance athletics and academics?
McLean: It is a tough task. It’s like having a long day at class, then going to the lab and then going to practice to give it your all. You are tired; you want to take a nap, but assignments are due. By the time your day is over you get only about 6-7 hours of sleep. So you can’t go to that party and hang out with your friends, because you want to be fully-recovered for the next track meet.
Adjusting to life as a Princeton Tiger
TL: Where did you grow up in Jamaica?
McLean: I was born in Trelawny and I grew up there until I was 12 years old and then I moved to Portmore (outside of Kingston). From there I went to Campion College.
TL: How did your experience in high school in Jamaica prepare you for Princeton?
McLean: It was pretty good; in my last year at Campion College I won the Class I triple jump title at the Boys Champs after finishing third the previous year. It was then I started getting a lot of coaches looking at me. Also, at Campion there was not that much emphasis placed on athletics so it was kinda’ an easy transition to Princeton. Princeton is pretty much like Campion in the sense that there is more emphasis on academics.
TL: How was the adjustment from Campion College to Princeton?
McLean: The adjustment took longer than I had expected and that’s the reason why I haven’t achieve as much as I could have in athletics. The school work is the hardest work I have done. However, I feel I am now settled.
TL: How do you handle the adjustment?
McLean: The culture is very different from what I was used to even in track and field. I am here I try my best. I still listen to my Jamaican music. I try to stay focus, just being myself. I feel I am settled and ready to push on.
TL: How does not having a track scholarship affects your approach to track?
McLean: Because there is no athletics scholarship you have to pay your own way but the school provides financial aid. Also because you are not on scholarship, the coaches will push you only if you want to be pushed, so you have to take the initiative and seek help.
TL: How about your support system?
McLean: I have a great support system and I am able to sometimes call on my friends from high school for support. I also have friends from other schools that I can reach out to. At the track meets that I go to I often meet other Jamaicans, so you have that camaraderie. Last year at nationals, I saw Kemar Fuller and Jonathon Reid (University of Alabama). I used to compete against those guys in Jamaica. It was fun connecting with those guys again.
TL: Why Princeton?
McLean: I needed the challenge academically. If it was easy, then everyone would do it.