Graduate transfers find success

For collegiate student-athletes, managing schoolwork and athletics is crucial for success both on the playing field and in the classroom. However, the workload for student-athletes who attend graduate school while playing a sport is only higher. Such is the case for Marshall University track and field athletes Meagen Carter and Alexis Montes, two graduate transfers who are using their final year of track and field eligibility as graduate students for the Herd.

What makes Carter and Montes even more special for Marshall’s track and field team? They are not just succeeding; they’re thriving.

“They present mature leadership for the team,” head coach Jeff Small said. “They’re great additions to the team.”

Carter was a former standout at Division II Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. She broke school records in the indoor 800-meter run and mile, outdoor 1500-meter run and cross country 6K. She was injured at the end of indoor season her sophomore year and completely redshirted the outdoor portion of that season. She graduated in 2016 and had the extra year of eligibility in outdoor track and field.

Montes was also a standout at Division II West Liberty University in northern West Virginia. In 2016 she easily won the javelin throw in the Mountain East Conference’s Championship meet. Montes then advanced to the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships where she placed seventh with a throw of 167 feet 7 inches (51.07 meters). She redshirted her freshman year, giving her a full year of eligibility remaining following her graduation from West Liberty in 2016.

Both Carter and Montes did not know until late summer of 2016 they would be competing for Marshall. Carter decided on Marshall mid-July to pursue biomedical science, a program Marshall coaches told her about as a gateway to her eventual goal of medical school. Montes studies sport administration and did not sign with Marshall until three weeks before the 2016 fall semester began.

Fitting in was an obvious concern for both of the graduate-transfers. They were new to the team, yet were not freshmen.

“I remember expressing a concern because you’re new, but you’re older, so you have more experience,” Carter said. “I know that a lot of teams have a certain dynamic, but the coaches assured me everything would be fine; and it really was. I’ve even adopted the nickname ‘team mom’ and I feel like I’ve been on the team for years.”

Aside from picking up the role as the ‘team mom,’ Carter has made an immediate impact on the performance of the entire team. In her first official race for Marshall, she finished second on the team in the 3000-meter run.

“She’s made a huge impact,” assistant coach for distance/mid-distance runners Caleb Bowen said. “She’s in that front pack leading by example. It was hard for her not to be able to race in cross country and indoor track, but during that time she still led the team by example and through her work ethic.”

Montes had a similar experience in her first moments at Marshall. Like Carter, she was nervous about joining the team, but fit in quickly.

“I was nervous because I obviously left my track family back home,” Montes said. “Then here I am going to a new team with new teammates and a new atmosphere. But everyone was so accepting, it’s like I was there from my freshman year. They made me feel really comfortable.”

Montes made an immediate impact when the javelin throw began, an outdoor-only event. In her first competition for the Herd, she set the Marshall school record by over five feet. She won the javelin throw at the team’s opening outdoor meet at High Point University with a mark of 164 feet 2 inches (50.03 meters), which was the 13th best throw in Division I following the first weekend of competition.

“It was so cool, it felt great,” Montes said. “I owe it all to my teammates and coaches,” Montes said. “I’m just putting on a different jersey and competing in different places. At the end of the day, I’m still competing. I still compete with the top people in the nation.”

Both Carter and Montes expressed subtle differences between Division I and Division II track and field. For example, neither had an indoor facility at their previous school like Marshall has with the Chris Cline Indoor Athletic Complex. Carter had many runs take place on treadmills and turf fields if available. Montes had to wear softball cleats to practice throwing the javelin because of the lack of a practice runway.

Aside from excelling in track and field, the graduate students excel in the classroom as well. Montes expressed how “it’s all about time management.” Both felt doubts and pressure.

“I can’t tell you how many professors and advisors from my program warned me about how I wouldn’t be able to balance the two,” Carter said. “Every time I get an A on an exam I laugh about it. It’s all about priorities and how you choose to spend your time. If you want the most out of something, it’s how much effort you put into it. I don’t feel at any disadvantage, and I honestly feel like playing a sport brings structure into my life.”

Meagen Carter and Alexis Montes bring leadership and success to the Marshall University track and field team in meets, practice and in the classroom. Although the duo will only be able to bring one season of eligibility to the Herd, their impact has been huge to the track and field team.

“It’s just a great atmosphere,” Montes said. “I was able to get the perfect program for my graduate program in sport administration, and I was able to get the perfect track and field team.”

Patrick O’Leary can be contacted at [email protected]