Grateful that the NCAA granted all student-athletes an additional year of eligibility, St. John’s University graduate student sprinter Avon Samuels is determined to make the most of it. “I’m taking the opportunity to showcase my abilities,” said Samuels, who majored in business administration and is now studying for her master’s degree. “It’s been hard, but I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity.”
Having a fifth year is enabling Samuels to continue to improve her start and her speed. She’s also working on her endurance in the 400 meters to close strong in the final 50 meters. “Coach Pompey has been working with me to make sure that I’m fit enough to run the personal best that I want to achieve,” said Samuels.
Samuels spent her first two years as a student-athlete at Monroe College. Now in her third year at St. John’s, she feels a deep bond with her teammates. “These girls are phenomenal,” Samuels said. “It’s a great atmosphere. I feel that’s one of the most exciting things our team has accomplished so we can practice with a good spirit and a good heart and be excited for each other.”
Growing up in Guyana, Samuels worked hard on the track and in the classroom to earn an athletic scholarship in the U.S. “My coach back home had a vision, and we had goals…which is why I’m here today,” she said.
Sprinter and long jumper Mandana Vouillemin from France also dreamed of competing in college track and field in the U.S., but unfortunately the first university she attended was not a good fit. When she was looking to transfer, St. John’s seemed ideal. “It was a dream since I was little to run in New York and have a New York life,” she said. “I sent an email to Coach Pompey, and she responded.”
Now Vouillemin is feeling the good vibrations of training and being part of the Red Storm. She’s been running in the relays and is starting to learn the hurdles. “To find this rhythm is really hard for me, but I’m trying,” said Vouillemin, who is studying political science and government and has found her courses interesting. Her long-term goal is to work in international affairs, perhaps at the United Nations.
St. John’s track team heads to Chicago this weekend for the Big East Championships.