April 6, 2017
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- He knew, of course, that Virginia would get much colder at times than his native Jamaica. Even so, Jordan Scott miscalculated when he packed for college.
"When it started getting cold, I had to spend so much money on winter coats and necessary stuff for the winter," Scott said, laughing.
Mother Nature hasn't managed to slow his progress. A freshman on the University of Virginia track & field team, Scott has already established himself as one of the finest triple jumpers in program history. His best jump outdoors -- 16.01 meters (52 feet, 6.5 inches) at last weekend's Texas Relays -- ranks third all-time at UVA. (Scott also has a wind-aided jump of 16.34 meters).
Indoors, he ranks No. 2 all-time at Virginia with a jump of 16.36m (53-8.25). Scott also has set UVA freshman records for the indoor and outdoor triple jump, in the latter event surpassing a mark that stood for 45 years.
In late February, Scott helped UVA to a second-place finish -- its best ever -- at the ACC indoor meet at Notre Dame. He won the triple jump and placed eighth in the long jump.
At the NCAA indoor championships last month at Texas A&M, Scott placed 10th in the triple jump to earn second-team All-America honors.
"If you can have success nationally as a first-year in college, especially in the field events, you're a special kid," said Bryan Fetzer, director of UVA track & field/cross country.
It's more common for triple jumpers to struggle early in their college careers. "A lot of times you have to kind of work your way up and improve over the years," UVA assistant coach Mario Wilson said.
Still, Scott isn't satisfied with his first-year performances.
"A lot of persons are like, `You're an All-American. You did really well,' " Scott said. "But at the same time you know within yourself that it didn't go how you wanted it to go.' Yeah, I'm happy to be All-American, but I know I could have done a lot better, so there's mixed feelings when it comes to NCAAs, to be honest."
He was told to expect obstacles early in his UVA career.
"Coming in, they tell you from the get-go, `This is your first time competing in college, so you might not do as well in your first season as a college athlete as you did in your final year as a high school athlete,' " Scott said. "I always played that over in my mind. I would think about it and say, `OK, if I don't do well, I understand it, I'll improve further on.' But at the same time I am somebody who likes to defy odds, so I want to be the one who did well in high school and manages to continue doing well in his first year in college."
Scott, 19, attended a prestigious high school in Jamaica, Campion College, that's known more for producing scholars than elite athletes. But Scott not only distinguished himself in the classroom, he represented Jamaica at the IAAF Under-20 World Championships in 2016.
"Jordan came in with a very accomplished profile," Wilson said.
Wilson is from Jamaica too -- he moved to the United States from Kingston when he was in middle school -- and that helped him during Virginia's recruitment of Scott.
"Just being familiar with the island, the interactions with his coach, the interactions with his mom," Wilson said. "Comfort, when you're sending your kid to another country to go to a school, I think is very important."
Fetzer also knows his way around Jamaica, where track & field and soccer are the most popular sports. His first recruiting visit there was in 1997, and he coached dozens of Jamaican athletes before arriving at UVA in December 2011. But Scott is only the second Jamaican whom Fetzer has coached at Virginia.
"All the national team coaches and [other Jamaican] coaches that I'm really good friends with, they've been trying for years to get the right kid here," Fetzer said. "They'll be like, `How about this kid? How about this kid?' And none of them fit both the academic profile and athletic profile.
"A lot of them fit the athletic but didn't fit the academic. Jordan did, and it's great."
After researching UVA, Scott came away impressed with the progress shown by triple jumper Ryan Satchell during his college career. The University's academic reputation was another selling point.
"For me, I was looking around for schools where I could possibly get the best balance between sports and academics," Scott recalled. "Most Jamaicans tend to just flock to [large Southern] schools because they're great with track. But my mother always told me, `What if one day you get up and you can't compete any more? You need something to fall back on.' So she was really big on education.
"I went to one of the best high schools in the Caribbean. So from there, after looking at the different [track & field] performances, it was really just about zeroing in on the school that had the best balance in my eyes between sports and academics, and UVA was at the top of that list."
Wilson's recruiting pitch was straightforward.
"I kept it right along the lines of basically, `You go to a very, very good high school, and I have to assume that you are really, really focused on your academics,' " Wilson said. "And I just kept an academic pitch the majority of the time."
On his visit to UVA, Scott spent time with Filip Mihaljevic, an Olympian (for Croatia) who last year won the shot put at the NCAA outdoor championships.
Mihaljevic has helped the men's program raise its national profile -- Virginia is ranked No. 5 this week -- and he made a favorable impression on Scott.
"Who doesn't want to meet the NCAA champion?" Scott said. "That's somebody who can I look up to and be like, `I want to be exactly like Filip.' "
Wilson said: "Jordan had a lot of respect for another international student like Filip who's doing very well here: very well in the classroom, very well on the playing field. Even though they're in completely different events, just the fact that Filip was an international student who was able to thrive here, I think that gave Jordan some comfort."
Scott, who lives with teammate Jack Claiborne, a South African who graduated from Woodberry Forest, hopes to major in computer science at UVA, with a minor in entrepreneurship.
On Saturday, Virginia will host Maryland, Penn and Columbia at Lannigan Field. Scott's only event in this quad meet will be the long jump., He'll next compete in the triple jump at the Virginia Challenge, April 21 and 22 at Lannigan Field.
"It's not his best event, obviously, but he was still able to score at ACCs," Wilson said. "A lot of times it's difficult to double [in the triple jump and long jump] at the highest levels, but there's a lot of college guys who double."
The attributes of successful triple jumpers?
"They're going to have better-than-average speed, but they're not all fast," Wilson said. "Some are very powerful. You have the lighter, quicker, very elastic guys, and then you have the very powerful guys who may not be as fast, but with their performances in the weight room, they're able to overcome forces. "They say the triple jumper has to deal with the greatest forces of any athlete, period, when you're talking about running nearly full speed, taking off, landing on a foot, taking off again, landing on a foot and then taking off and landing in the sand. The world record is 60 feet, so just imagine three phases, three single-leg takeoffs, and covering 60 feet."
Scott's ceiling in the event is "still to be determined," Wilson said. "He's a lot stronger than I thought he would be. In comparison to other young men that I've worked with who've done well in the triple jump, he's come in with some really good strength numbers, and really he hasn't done that much strength training. So he has good natural strength. He has a good physique for it. He's about 6-2, so he's tall, and he's got good levers, and he's got decent speed."
Wilson laughed. "By Jamaican standards he's not fast. But in the triple jump he's definitely in the upper end for speed. And then his technique is very good. He's very, very conscious of where he is in space. He's got a good feel for the event."
Scott is enjoying life in the United States. His teammates have exposed him to a lot of American music. In turn, Scott said, he's played reggae and dancehall, both popular in Jamaica, for them.
"I think the hardest thing for me has just been adjusting to the weather," Scott said. "My teammates are amazing. They keep me going."
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A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.
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