Louisiana Tech Recognizes its Three Olympic Athletes
July 10, 2012
RUSTON, La. - Louisiana Tech further proved its "global" reach Tuesday as the University hosted a reception to honor three current and former athletes that will compete in the 2012 Olympic Games in London this summer.
Heading to London will be Chelsea Hayes (USA, long jump), Jason Morgan (Jamaica, discus) and Ayanna Alexander (Trinidad & Tobago, triple jump).
The Waggoner Room on the ground level of the Thomas Assembly Center was full of fans and supporters who showed up to congratulate, meet and take photos with the two athletes headed to the Olympic Games that were able to be on hand.
"Today we're going to honor three different Louisiana Tech athletes who are competing in three different track and field events and representing three different countries," said Louisiana Tech President Dr. Dan Reneau. "Tech, we always say, is global. It's truly gone global now in athletics."
Later this summer there will be three athletes competing in three different events representing three different countries that all graduated from Louisiana Tech.
"It seems appropriate to have this even with the Hall of Fame behind me as our backdrop as we recognize three student athletes. I think one of the neat things about all three of these individuals is all three of them have their degrees from Louisiana Tech University," said athletics director Bruce Van De Velde. "We're very proud of that. Chelsea is currently is in graduate school at Louisiana Tech and of course Ayanna and Jason graduated years ago from Louisiana Tech. We're all very proud of your accomplishments. It means a great deal to us to see you representing not only Louisiana Tech but your countries."
Adding to an already compelling storyline, both athletes have overcome incredible hurdles to reach this point. Jason Morgan graduated in 2007, currently has a wife and a kid and trains in between work and having to pick his son up from daycare each evening. He qualified for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing but a mix-up in his travel documentation prevented him from traveling to China.
"For five years, [Jason Morgan] has chased his dream," said Louisiana Tech track and field coach Gary Stanley. "He has a full-time job, a wife and a child. He comes out to the track after our athletes have left and Larry Carmichael coaches him. Larry Carmichael doesn't receive any money for this. He does it as a labor of love. We're talking about someone who is about 24th in the world right now [in the discus]. That's in the world. That's every village, hamlet, city or town. From dusty roads to little sand-filled pits."
Chelsea Hayes was forced out of her home and high school before her senior year as Hurricane Katrina laid a horrifying level of devastation upon her hometown of New Orleans. She spent the next year going from (now defunct) Marion Abramson High School in New Orleans, to Tennessee, to a shelter in Baton Rouge (spending three weeks without knowing if her mother survived the storm), to Maryland, to Georgia, to Neville High School in Monroe and then signing with South Plains Junior College in west Texas after finally graduating high school.
Hayes enters the Olympic Games ranked third in the world and only a half-inch behind Russia's Anna Nazarova.
"The Cold War may be over but we're going after them," Stanley quipped at Tuesday's event.
Of the 140 track and field athletes on Team USA, 133 are professional athletes leaving only seven collegiate athletes and Hayes is one of the seven.
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Dr. Dan Reneau, Louisiana Tech President
"What a fine day and what a great crowd and turnout that's here. Today we're going to honor three different Louisiana Tech athletes who are competing in three different track and field events and representing three different countries. Tech, we always say, is global. It's truly gone global now in athletics."
"The first person who is not here is Ayanna Alexander. She will compete in the triple jump for Trinidad and Tobago. Her achievements include a silver medal in the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Silver medalists and bronze medalists at the 2010 CAC games."
"Jason Morgan, let's give Jason a round of applause here. Jason Morgan will compete in the discus for his home nation of Jamaica. Jason's a three-time All-WAC athlete and three-time letterman for Louisiana Tech. He was the 2006 WAC discus champion and is currently ranked 24th in the world in the discus. Congratulations Jason."
"United States, Chelsea Hayes. Chelsea Hayes saved her best performance for last at the U.S. Olympic Trials earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic track and field team on her final long jump, which was a personal best and a new WAC record. I understand this was a collegiate best as well. Congratulations but I want to read a little more about her. Chelsea is the 2012 Joe Kearney Award winner as the top athlete in the WAC, the first Louisiana Tech athlete to win the award, and the 2012 Louisiana Field Athlete of the Year. Chelsea is a 14-time WAC champion, 15-time first team All-WAC, and the 2012 indoor long jump national runner-up. She also holds records in nine different track and field events. Congratulations Chelsea and we'll be watching you and wishing you well in all of them."
"The one last person I want to recognize are the coaches of the team and particularly Coach Gary Stanley. Gary Stanley has been with us for a long time. He's a winner. He always produces champions and and now he's produced three Olympic champions we hope are gold medalists. We won't quite hold you responsible but thanks for getting us there and being who you are. Thank you."
Bruce Van De Velde, Louisiana Tech Athletics Director
"It seems appropriate to have this even with the Hall of Fame behind me as our backdrop as we recognize three student athletes. I mean student athletes in every sense of the word not only for the many athletic achievements of Ayanna, Chelsea and Jason have achieved here, but I think one of the neat things about all three of these individuals is all three of them have their degrees from Louisiana Tech University. We're very proud of that. Chelsea is currently is in graduate school at Louisiana Tech and of course Ayanna and Jason graduated years ago from Louisiana Tech. We're all very proud of your accomplishments. It means a great deal to us to see you representing not only Louisiana Tech but your countries. I think all of us really get drawn into the Olympics. Every four years, you look back and think well I may have some interest in watching that and then you start watching it and you just become captive because the theme around it and you find yourself cheering whether it's swimming or any other event you might not typically watch, but particularly track and field which is so exciting and so American. It's great to have all three of these individuals representing us."
"A little bit more about Chelsea to recognize the level of achievement that has occurred here:
"There are 140 track athletes on the United States Track team. One hundred and thirty three of that 140 are professional track athletes. Only seven are college and Chelsea is one of those seven and that is really remarkable. I would just like to add to what Dr. Reneau mentioned and thank Dr. Reneau for his support and for being here today. Thank all of you for being here. You're all great Tech alum and fans and family and we really appreciate you. As Dr. Reneau stated, I want to thank Gary and his staff for all the hard work and for being great role models to our student athletes. So thank you Gary, to you and your staff and everyone involved."
Gary Stanley, Louisiana Tech Head Track & Field Coach
"If you stay somewhere long enough something good will happen. Pretty much everything was said. Dr. Reneau stole all of my stats, Bruce stole the rest of it and then you had the heartstrings there. There are a lot of people to thank. I want to thank my coaches because they are the heart and soul of the program. Larry has been with me for 21 years, Shawn for 16. That's who make this work so I want to thank them. It means a lot to them and it means a lot to them that y'all recognize that and you know who they are. Justin has been with me for two years"
"When Jason and Chelsea get up to speak, it's really not about the marks and the numbers of records and this and that. It's really about their pursuit of their dreams and what it means. And going back to wanting to thank people, you know they graduated; Bruce was very specific about that and I think of Lisa Merritt and Mary Kay Hungate and what they did. I think about Bruce and giving us the equipment and the budget to go to recruit these athletes, to equip these athletes and get them to national class meets so they can get on stage. If you don't get them to Texas Relays, if you're just going 30 minutes down the road to compete in our sport, then you're not going to get there so I want to appreciate that. I thank the coaches."
"Twenty four years ago, I was a young assistant coach from New Orleans, wet behind the ears, and Dr. Dan Reneau hired me as head coach here 24 years ago. I had been here for six years as an assistant and he took a chance and I appreciate what you've done. I think if most of you had been here, I've been here 30 years, and I think if you look back 25 years ago with this athletic department, it's a far cry different now under Dr. Reneau's stewardship and all the financial difficulties he faces keeping this department going. I think if you look at what he's done and Bruce, it's amazing and we appreciate you Dr. Reneau."
"I was thinking this morning about world class and what is `World Class.'" You turn on the TV and you hear it bandied about constantly - world class this and that. There are two sports in the world that are universal - soccer and track and field. In the rest of the world, it's not known as track and field. If you go to London, and hopefully we are, when you look for track and field you won't find it. It's listed under athletics. It's the most measurable of all sports. When you are talking about these young people in here today and you're talking world class, it's very measurable. Whether it's from Dubach to Dubai, Carencro to Cairo, from Norway to Nigeria, track is measurable."
"You have a young man over here that graduated in 2007 who did a lot for Louisiana Tech but Jason Morgan, for five years, has chased his dream. He has a full-time job, a wife and a child. He comes out to the track after our athletes have left and Larry Carmichael coaches him. Larry Carmichael doesn't receive any money for this. He does it as a labor of love. Jason, what you've done is fabulous. And right now Jason, when you talk about world class, you're talking about someone who's about 24th in the world right now on the list. That's in the world. That's every village, hamlet, city or town. They all run. From dusty roads to little sand-filled pits."
"I asked Chelsea yesterday, I said, `Chelsea, tell me about your senior year in high school.' She said, on August 29, I was in McDonald's working at my after-school job and we saw this storm was coming to New Orleans but we didn't worry. We never worry about those things. We went to bed and everything was fine, a few trees blew down and the next morning the city flooded and they evacuated a million people out of New Orleans. Her mother stayed with the house, as a lot of New Orleanians did. So Chelsea and some relatives left. In one calendar year, this is where Chelsea Hayes was. She was at Abramson High, she went to Tennessee, Baton Rouge in a shelter, three weeks without knowing whether her mother was swept away or not, Maryland, Georgia, Neville High School, graduates, and then signs with South Plains, this junior college out in west Texas all in one year. That's chasing your dream there. Chelsea Hayes is ranked third in the world right now - a half an inch behind a Russian girl. The Cold War may be over but we're going after them. I want to thank these kids and my coaches and I've got three words to say to y'all: on to London."
Jason Morgan, Discus, Jamaica
"I don't even know where to start but I'll start by saying thank God. I also want to thank my late mom that passed. All of this is for her. I promised her the Olympics when I was 18 years old. It's been a journey for me, it's been a real challenge, a real struggle. A lot of people wouldn't know what I've been through to be where I'm at today by just a big man walking around smiling or being pleasant, but I'm thankful. It's only the grace of God that has really kept me all the way. No doubt about that. I want to thank my coaches. Throughout the years from high school to where I am today, a special thanks to Coach Carmichael. I also want to thank Coach Stanley, Coach Jackson. Being here at Tech with me, they see the struggles and see how determined I am to achieve this goal. I definitely want to thank all who support me positively nonstop. Words definitely can't describe how appreciative I am. It's just amazing being the first Jamaican to qualify for two different World Championships and definitely going to the Olympic games is something real special for me. I've dreamt about this day for years. I qualified for the last Olympic games in Beijing but had some difficulties with my paperwork and travel documents. I decided to stick with it and say, `you know what, I've come this close and there's got to be something special that awaits me.' I'll see y'all in London this summer. It's going to be something really special coming from me. Thank y'all so much. I really appreciate it."
Chelsea Hayes, Long Jump, USA
"Thank you all for coming out and supporting me and also Jason. But, first of all, I just want to thank the Lord because he continues to bless me through all that I've been through. At the trials, a lot of people may not know, but one of my brothers is very sick so on my last jump, I just put it all in for him, just to make it for him. Also, my mother and my nieces that look up to me. Just being here and able to represent Louisiana Tech and the United States is a blessing to me."
"I also want to thank my coaches, even Coach Jackson. He's known me since high school he knows all the struggles I've been through. For him to just give me the opportunity to come on a team even through all the struggles I've had, he still gave me a chance, I want to thank him. Also Coach Stanley, all the coaches that supported me, everyone that has supported me throughout it all. Even Quinn. When I'm down, he always gives me words of encouragement. So, I just thank everyone. I don't know what else to say but thank everyone for being here to support me. It's a blessing just to be here. Thank you."