Feb. 7, 2005
Tallahassee, Fla. – Class, practice, homework, volunteer, class, homework, sleep.
Practice, class, homework, lunch, class, volunteer, homework, class, sleep.
That is what one day looks like for junior hurdler LaKendra McColumn, a member of the Florida State track and field team. McColumn balances her academics, her performance and leadership on the track and spending time giving back to the community as she has been for most of her life.
“I guess I’ve always been considered above average,” says McColumn, very humbly. “I started in the magnet program in school when I was in fourth grade. Initially, it was really challenging. I got my first `B’ and `C’ but it really helped having all the extra projects and work. You had to learn how to manage your time because you had so much stuff to do. When I got to college, school was so easy because of all the programs I had been through. This was something I wasn’t expecting, especially when I got into my major.”
Academics is an area she more than excels in as she is on track to graduate during the summer of 2005 – at the end of her third season of eligibility – and begin graduate studies in the fall of 2005. The exercise science major has a 3.77 grade point average and has been named to the ACC Academic Honor Roll two times in as many seasons. She has earned Dean’s List Honors three times in five semesters as a Seminole. Her latest recognition came during the fall of 2005 when she produced a 4.0 GPA.
Her approach to studying was normal but uncanny in that she had been taught to work this way from an early age. The time she spent learning as a child is paying dividends now, considering McColumn should have a number of credits towards a master’s degree before she finishes her fourth year of eligibility.
“I never considered studying or doing homework like a chore or something I had to do but more so something that was interesting,” comments McColumn, which describes exactly why she has been so successful in her academics.
McColumn’s success shows in her grades but also on the track. The three-time All-ACC honoree is the leading hurdler for the Seminoles this season as well as the last two. Although the season is almost halfway completed, McColumn has constantly improved, not only in her specialty area – the hurdles – but in the sprints as well. Her faster sprint times are only a byproduct of her training for hurdles but something that definitely makes her a threat for outdoor season.
As a freshman, she finished seventh in the 60m hurdles finals after running an 8.57 time in the preliminary races. She also triple jumped almost 40′ recording a top ten mark at the league championships. When outdoor season came around, McColumn stepped it up regionally qualifying in the 100m and 400m hurdles. She boasted regional qualifying marks in eight of 11 meets that season and earned All-ACC honors with a pair of third place finishes at the conference meet.
During the 2004 indoor season, McColumn took fifth and eighth in the 55m hurdles and 60m hurdles at the conference championships. She ran a career-best time of 8.54 at the meet in the 60m hurdles. Her training during the indoor season helped with her success during outdoor.
All of her preparation during the first half of the track season set her up for a great sophomore outdoor campaign, as she bettered her personal best marks in both events. She anchored the hurdles corps, regionally qualifying in both events for the second consecutive season. She spent the entire season on the top ten performance list in the hurdles event culminating that with a third All-ACC honors for her third place finish in the 400m hurdles at the conference meet. That performance was a career-best in the quarter hurdles and typical for McColumn at the conference, as she ran a personal best at the same meet in the previous season. She ran a season-best time of 13.70 in the 100m hurdles a few weeks later in front of her hometown crowd at the Georgia Tech Invitational in Atlanta. She helped FSU beat Florida for the first time in program history, running both hurdle events and a leg of the 4x400m relay and triple jumping.
“During indoors, Coach Malone has me working on some sprints to help with my 100m hurdles,” explained McColumn, who ran a season-best 24.84 at the Gator Invitational. “I did the 200m when I first started running track but it is more now to help me with the hurdles. I would focus on the hurdles regardless because we don’t have many hurdles.”
In high school, McColumn was named Georgia’s Female Athlete of the Year after winning the 100m hurdles state championship. All through high school, she earned regional and state honors and was named team MVP for her performances. In the classroom, she constantly made the honor roll as well as added to her extensive resume the honor of being a National Merit Achievement winner.
With class, practice and track meets, you would think that the only time McColumn has left is reserved for eating, sleeping and homework. That is not the case, as she finds time to volunteer in the community.
One of three captains on the women’s team, the Lithonia, Ga., native compiled 71 hours of community service during the 2003-04 school year and has already worked with five programs entering this season. She worked as an athletic ambassador, at FSU Football Youth Day, the Good Project (Street Beautification) and with a mentoring program at Brevard Elementary. Of all the community service involvement she has participated in, she cited one as the most meaningful to her.
They’re always like, `When are you coming back?’ or `We miss you.’ If you miss a week, they will let you know.
~ LaKendra McColumn on the FACE Project
“FACE (Florida Arts and Community Enrichment) was my favorite project,” McColumn boasts. “A lot of the children are considered at-risk but they are really smart children, its just their parents may not have enough time to take out with them to go over work. I really enjoy going over there because they love when we come. They’re always like, `When are you coming back?’ or `We miss you.’ If you miss a week, they will let you know. That was important because they really appreciate you coming and it is a lot of fun.”
The FACE project helps at-risk youth in Frenchtown by combining instructors and a safe, local environment for children to work on academic and health-related subjects during non-school hours. McColumn spent a large number of hours working with the project last year. Her tasks vary from setting up work rooms to helping students with science fair projects or studying for school.
“They have an apartment set up like a tutoring center,” McColumn explained. “We went last year and helped them make things to look really nice. There are different stations in the apartment. They have a room for arts, a room with books and a room for clothes. Every year I bring some of my old clothes in for some of the teenage girls.”
Although FACE is her favorite, most of her time has gone to the America Reads Program, a project she has logged 36 hours in, in just one year. The program, being implemented in communities across the nation, works to improve the literacy skills of children around the country. McColumn worked with the Riley and Brevard Elementary Schools.
“Usually, I am involved in the America Reads program,” said McColumn. “But this semester I am not involved as much because I am out of town on the weekends traveling with track. Plus I want to keep up with my school work.”
McColumn not only participates in community service as an individual, she is one of the team leaders in finding group projects for the track and field team. The latest project took the group to play games at a senior citizen’s home. The group also helped out the cross country team by volunteering for the only home race during the fall season.
“We just find different projects we can do as a team,” said the elected community service representative. “This past weekend, we went to Magnolia Place Retirement Home and played bingo. It was lots of fun but we just try and find stuff to do on the weekends we are in town.”
Whether its class, practice or a meet, McColumn is focused on one thing – being successful. She is a great leader and an example to her teammates and those coming up of how you can succeed in all aspects of life.