Immaculate throwing star Danielle Sloley to continue career at Clemson UniversityTuesday, June 30, 2020
By Paul A Reid
After taking up the sport “by mistake” just before starting high school in 2013, Immaculate Conception High's best-ever thrower Danielle Sloley is ready to make the next step on her journey, guided by her strong Christian faith, as she gets ready to start her university career at Clemson University.
Quickly admitting that she was more brain than brawn, and after getting a scholarship from the Magnificent Chess Foundation in prep school, she accepted an invitation to go to a summer camp, only to find out it was a track and field conditioning camp.
“The story of how I started track and field was not very typical,” Sloley told the Jamaica Observer last week. “I wasn't an athletic child coming out of prep school and it showed. Actually I received a scholarship from the Magnificent Chess Foundation, because of my achievements in the game of chess coming out of prep school.”
She told the story of her mother talking to a member of their church at Immaculate's orientation, “who we didn't know was the manager for the track and field team at the time and she encouraged my mom to send me to a 'Fun Summer Camp'. Upon attending, I had not realised she accidentally signed me up for a track and field summer conditioning programme.”
Sloley continued. “I was unamused, but I participated.” And after failing miserably to keep up with the runners, she said Head Coach Franz Forde, whom she calls Uncle Franz, “introduced me to throws. I hated the conditioning but I liked the event itself and I kept going back no matter how much I said I'd stop. Seven years later, I'm still yet to quit. I fell in love with the sport.”
Sloley became one of the most consistent throwers in high school over the last four years or so, while specialising in the shot put, winning a handful of medals at the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) Boys' and Girls' Championships (Champs), setting the Class Two record in the process, as well as winning at the Penn Relays last year. Her efforts did not go unnoticed by the college coaches.
She had a number of choices but said the persistence of Clemson's throws coach Shawn Cobey made the difference. “I chose Clemson because it's new territory which means new adventures in opportunity. I also chose it because their throws coach made contact with my coach before the season even started which showed how much he already believed in my abilities. It was just the most comfortable choice.”
Sloley, who scored 1100 on her Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and had four passes in the CAPE Exams, has her eyes set on majoring in Economics at Clemson while pursuing a minor in political science before going to law school.
Those are lofty goals for a regular student, not to mention one who is also competing in sports, but she says she is prepared. “Maintaining a high academic, as well as athletic, standard has always been a priority of mine. Coming out of Immaculate [a school that pushes for high academic achievement] I've made the honour roll throughout my seven years while doing track and field,” she pointed out. “So I will do what I have been doing, which is to manage my time wisely and get a headstart on all assignments as early and efficiently as I can.”
She said she did her due diligence. “Unlike high school, colleges make way more provisions to give their student athletes the time and resources to ensure they balance both, such as mandatory study hall sessions each week.”
“The goal for college academically is to maintain the 4.0 grade point average to the best of my ability. Athletically I am aiming for as much growth and progress as possible, mentally and physically...I am hoping to sharpen my competitive nature to resemble that of the professional athlete I hope to be. Personally, I aim to grow closer to God, share my faith, and enjoy my university experience to the best of my ability.”
With few exceptions, Immaculate Conception is not known to produce a string of outstanding athletes and Sloley said she had divine motivation as well as her teammates and family.
“My team [ICHS Wolves] was one of my motivators, the girls needed something to look up to, evidence that we 'uptown' ladies can dominate both athletics and academics. I worked to be the evidence,” she told the Observer. “My family has been my motivation to go after anything I was passionate about. We are not considered wealthy, but their love and support was all the wealth I needed to try and make them proud day in, day out. God, His words and promises have pushed me to reach for the stars. Every achievement, promotion, and every obstacle I overcame, I give Him all the credit. As a Christian I am motivated to show how great God is through my 'good works'.”
Sloley was named on three national teams to the Carifta Games in 2017 and last year, and the Youth Olympics in 2018 in The Bahamas where she placed ninth.
She won a silver at the Carifta Games in 2017 but gave up her spot in 2019 as the trip would have clashed with Immaculate's departure for the Penn Relays.
The sacrifice worked out, however, as despite being the only Jamaican in the field, she won the shot put with 14.38m, a victory that went a far way in soothing her wounds after being upset at Champs a few weeks earlier by Vere Technical's Marie Forbes.
“Coming second last year didn't come as a surprise to me; the better athlete showed up on the day and Marie definitely brought the competition,” Sloley admitted. “That year was very challenging for me mentally, as I was struggling with the transition from the glide to the rotation but that loss motivated me to go to Penns withholding nothing and it resulted in the win. So I will be forever grateful for Champs 2019.”
She had big plans for this year at both Champs, Penn Relays, and the World Athletics Under-20 Championships, but the novel cornavirus pandemic saw everything go down the drain. “Initially I was devastated to hear I wasn't going to get my closure to my junior career,” she said. “I had so many objectives and goals I wanted to achieve before leaving. Now I understand that everything happens for a reason, safety and health are first priorities. God knows best and now all I can do is put my efforts into mentally preparing myself for the next chapter in my life.”
She will be leaving behind some great memories, as she spoke about Champs 2018 when she set the Class Two record in the shot put, heaving the ball out to 15.99m, breaking the 15.93m set in 2013 by Edwin Allen's Rochelle Frazer.
“Champs 2018 will forever be my favourite memory because that was the year everyone expected the least from me. I was struggling with injuries and CSEC [Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate] and SBAs [school-based assessments], but the moment I stepped in the ring, there was this peace and calm, that competition was my stress reliever and I took out all my frustrations on the shot. I didn't see competition that day, I wasn't aware of anything but me, the shot, the ring, and the record. Mentally I was stronger than ever that competition and it will forever be my favourite competition because I set a record, against all odds.”
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