I wanted to be an Olympic champion

Growing up, I was always athletic and “abnormally strong”. Born and raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey, I was known as the trackstar that was going to the Olympics. When I was 10, I participated in The Colgate Women’s Games, still the nation’s largest track series open to all girls from elementary school through college and beyond. Every weekend in January, I would participate amongst hundreds of girls in preliminary meets with the hope to compete in the semi-finals and finals for trophies and educational grants-in-aid from the Colgate-Palmolive Company. One weekend, I crossed the line and my coach walked over to me to tell me that I scored 1 point. I had no idea what that meant but mirrored his excitement as I could see that it was a big deal. Being a kid, my excitement came from winning my heat and playing hand-clapping circle games with new friends while waiting for our turn to run. I had no idea that that point would soon lead to years of success on a national level. I wanted to be an Olympic Champion.  

Things took off from there and the Olympic Dream became more of a reality. By high school, I competed at a national level in my respective events and throughout college at both the University of Texas and the University of Arkansas. As a high school senior, I broke the Junior American and National High School record for the 600-meter run with a time of 1:29.2. That record stood for 10 years before being broken. I was a two-time Track & Field News High School All-American and posted the fastest times in the state of New Jersey in the 200, 300, 400, 600 and 800-meter runs as a senior, leading my highschool to back-to-back state championships.

At Texas, I finished second in the 600-meter run at the Big XII Indoor Championships as a freshman, and helped the Longhorns to a 4×800-meter relay title at the 2006 Penn Relays. I earned NCAA Indoor All-America honors as a member of the 4×400-meter relay team as a freshman, and was named to the Big XII Commissioner’s Honor Roll as a sophomore. Throughout my sophomore year, I struggled with chronic tendinitis in both of my Achilles. At a point, I forgot what it was like to run without pain. Before and after practice you could find me in the training room getting every bit of treatment possible, but nothing seemed to work. I became unhappy and at the end of my sophomore year, I returned home for the summer and transferred to Arkansas during the end of summer. 

Arkansas took a chance on me. Not running on my toes all summer got me through cross country season injury free. I was a member of the Razorbacks cross-country team that won the 2008 Southeastern Conference title and training was BRUTAL. Til this day, I remember every bit of those 8 mile “easy” runs in 60 minutes. Back in my day, middle distance runners were in between homes. My days sometimes included morning runs with the distance girls and afternoon track workouts with the sprinters. I earned Second Team All-SEC in the 800-meter run and once again earned All-America status as a member of Arkansas’ 4×400-meter relay team that finished seventh at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships. 

Although I had many successes at Arkansas, my chronic tendonitis in both of my achilles snuck back up on me. After redshirting two spring seasons and an unsuccessful PRP surgery, I had to end my “it’s complicated” relationship with track. After graduating in 2009, I returned back home to Jersey.

Back at home, I had some graduation money saved up so I lived off of that for a bit while I made one more solid attempt at getting back on track. I started going to PT and reunited with my high school coach. I would meet with him and his high school athletes and as out of shape as I was, they did not take it easy on me. I may not have gained the “Freshman 15” in college, but I sure did when I returned home. However, it didn’t take much time for me to get back in my running shoes. Once I did, I was cruising, but my achilles were not on board for the ride. After registering for my comeback race, a few practices later, I was back in a familiar place. I was frustrated and my achilles were frustrated with me. 

For a long time, I was lost. I thought being an Olympic Champion was who I was supposed to be and that it would point me in the direction of where I was supposed to go. So I put my Olympic Dream as well as my on-and-off fitness on the backburner and tried to focus on finding a job. The transition was humbling, but eventually there were bright spots. After a few years of being home, I earned my Master of Public Administration degree while serving as a graduate assistant for the Men’s & Women’s Track & Field team at Rutgers University-Newark. Back on the track scene, I started working out again and worked Part-time with the Joetta Clark Diggs Sports Foundation as a fitness instructor and assistant to 4-Time Olympian “Joetta.” Under her mentorship and within my studies, I developed a passion for serving people. I was not an Olympic Champion, but working with an Olympian taught me how to become a champion of my everyday life and embrace adversity as an opportunity to grow. 

I continued to find enjoyment from being in the Track & Field industry from the “other side,” and I felt like I was getting closer to my purpose. I dabbled a little more in the nonprofit sector becoming Associate Director of Track & Field and Educational Development at The Armory Foundation in New York. There I gained experience from the other side at a managerial level, helping run one of the largest indoor track & field facilities in the world as well as its college prep program serving underserved student-athletes in NYC. I constantly got caught up in my office talking with my students about the good old days and soon, life brought me back to coaching. In 2013, I accepted the position as Head Women’s Cross Country and Assistant Men’s and Women’s Track & Field Coach at Long Island University-Brooklyn (LIU). 

Coaching on the collegiate level was awesome, however, something was still missing. Speaking about my sense of emptiness with a former teammate and Affiliate Owner, we came to the conclusion that I missed training. I missed working out regularly with other people. That is when she set me up on a date with CrossFit at CFJC (now known as JCFit). It was love at first lift and I truly felt the warmth of such a diverse and inclusive community. It was powerful and exactly what I needed in my life. I was still a little inconsistent at first, but the more I showed up, the more my sense of emptiness disappeared. It was a 30-minute commute from the door of my office to the JCFit alleyway, and I enjoyed the thrill of racing the clock to get to class on time. The workouts never seemed to disappoint me, unless they involved the rower. There is just something about suffering through the same workout with a group of people who are committed to achieving their goals. It makes you push harder. It makes you want to come back tomorrow and do it all over again. I learned how to do a muscle up, hit some really big lifts and even got engaged to my now wife right in the gym. I was happy again. I went from being a member to coaching part time and I even competed in local competitions. I felt like an athlete and part of a team again. 

Under the leadership of Russell, JCFit gave me the opportunity to grow personally and professionally, expand my own knowledge and coaching ability, and discover who I am – finding my place in the world. In 2017, I resigned from my position at LIU and pursued coaching CrossFit and training full time. 

I did not become an Olympic Champion. 

What I became was a stronger version of myself. 

Now I get to do what I love every day; coach and train. I’ve found so much happiness in helping people become the best version of themselves and I am dedicated to our JCFit mission of making Hudson County the healthiest county in America. As a Head Coach, competitive athlete, wife and mother to two very attention-seeking pups, I still live the life of a Champion. 

I challenge you to find something you are good at and use it to create the lifestyle you desire.

Love, J9 

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