Coming into the 2017-18 season, senior Jordin Carter of the women's track and field team had two goals in mind. Thanks to a change in her class curriculum, of all things, Carter met both those goals within the first three meets of the semester.
Carter specializes in the 20-pound weight throw, which is the indoor equivalent of the hammer throw outdoors. Imagine taking a tire off your car and throwing it more than 47 feet away. That's what it took for Carter to reach the New England Division III Championships on January 21st, meeting her first goal of the season.
Over the course of the next month, Carter has flung that 20-pound weight four feet farther. She reached her second goal of setting the school record in the event when she threw 48 feet, six inches, at Boston University a week after qualifying for New Englands. Since then, she has improved the school record by another three feet, to 51 feet, 10 inches.
Prior to her senior season, Carter's top performance had been just under 45-and-a-half feet. What accounts for the improvement? That's where Carter's worlds of academics and athletics meet.
"During my junior year, I was able to create my own major. It's called Health and Human Performance Studies," Carter said. "I started taking classes that were really interesting to me. Classes that were health-related, but also culturally and socially related."
One of the centerpieces of how Carter has put her classwork into practice in the throwing circle comes from Biology 44a, The Biology of Human Sports and Exercise, taught by professor Maria Miara. Among the topics they've covered so far have been the differences between muscle types, oxygen levels in muscles and how diet affects exercise.
"We learned about VO2 Max and how that changes with exercise," Carter said. "That allowed me to incorporate how to breathe when I'm throwing. Before, when I didn't think about it, I would be out of breath when I was getting ready to throw. But once I learned it and realized, you can't exhale and then push. You just can't do it."
The combination of hours of coaching put in by assistant Steve Flanagan – whose mantra for the throwers is "You gotta push, you gotta push" – and the lessons taken from the classroom has made it all come together for Carter in her senior season.
"Jordin is a limitless student-athlete who has spent close to 2,000 hours at Gosman over her three and a half years at Brandeis," Flanagan said. "She's committed to being the best teammate possible and does so by trusting her teammates and coaching. It's been an absolute thrill to watch it pay off for her as a senior."
Carter came to Brandeis from Fort Wayne, Indiana. She had already gotten into what she called "her dream school", but an offer of an MLK scholarship and encouragement from an aunt who was familiar with Brandeis's strong academic reputation convinced Carter that she should give Brandeis a shot. The University flew her to campus in April of 2014 for a CommUNITY weekend hosted by the admissions office for admitted students, and Carter knew she had found her home.
"We saw the whole beautiful campus, and I met some great people who were my first friends at Brandeis," Carter remembered. "When I got here in the fall, I was already immersed in the school's culture."
Carter started with track and field in the eighth grade after trying out for other sports while moving to a new school. She didn't quite make the volleyball or basketball squads, but track and field was more about the commitment than the talent level required at the start.
"It felt more welcoming to me," she said. "There was less pressure. I like how, when I'm in the ring, it's just me, measuring against myself. It's all about personal records and improving yourself."
Now that she's set the school record, Carter's goals have moved. She hoped to reach the top three at the New England Division III Championships at Springfield College - where she ended up placing fourth -and at this weekend's University Athletic Association championships at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland. Once again, coach Flanagan will be exhorting Carter to "just throw bombs!"
"This season has been so great," Carter said. "I found a way to integrate the two things I love, track and my academics, and not have to compromise one over the other because they actually come together. I'm excited to go to class and learn something new, and then I'm excited to come down [to Gosman] and apply it."
-- by Adam Levin '94, sports information director