Jan. 23, 2000
by Dan Bent
He stands where the runway begins, calm and collected. He does not pump himself up. He does not become excited. He simply knows that he will jump far. He is All-American Marshaun West.
This confidence has transformed West from an inexperienced freshman into one of the nation’s best jumpers.
“I just learned track my junior year in high school, so my success is really more of an experience thing,” says West. “My freshman year, I really just started getting my feet wet. I trained and participated in the meets, and with that I got more confidence and received better marks.”
While West has received good marks since his arrival on campus three years ago, he elevated his performance to a much higher level last year. With specialties in the long jump and 200-meter dash, West jumped to four first-place finishes, a school indoor record of 25 feet-6 inches at the Red Simmons Invitational in Ann Arbor, Mich., and a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. He also won all five indoor 200-meter races in which he participated and came within .05 seconds of breaking the school indoor record of 21.11.
“One of my goals this year is to get that 200-meter record. I’m getting a little anxious for that and I’d like to get it out of the way early in the season so I don’t have to worry about it,” says West. “I’d also like to improve all my times and jumps at the BIG EAST Championships, both indoor and outdoor.”
West’s performance at last year’s outdoor conference meet was so impressive that he earned the title of 1999 BIG EAST Most Outstanding Track Performer. He left the meet with a first-place finish in the 200-meter dash and second in both the long jump and 100-meter dash.
A naturally gifted athlete, West was not only heavily recruited to run track, but also to play basketball at the Division I level.
“I had a pretty good junior and senior year in basketball,” West says. “I was scoring around 23 points a game my senior year and I started getting a lot of attention from all the junior colleges and a few D-1 schools like Xavier and Temple.”
Despite all the attention from schools on his athletic prowess, West says the decision of which school to attend was purely academic.
“I did not believe I was college bound coming out of high school. No one from my family had ever been to college, so when I started getting calls from all these schools I looked to the name and the academic reputation of the university. It didn’t have anything to do with track, basketball, polo, whatever – it was all about academics.”
Academics certainly have been a central focus for West as he will graduate this spring with a degree in marketing from the College of Business Administration and hopes to pursue a career in advertising or another marketing-related field.
Though West has accomplished great things both on the track and in the classroom, his success has not made an easier life for him in his hometown of Sikeston, Mo.
“Things have not been very easy at home,” says West. “I live around gangs and most of the time when I go home I’m approached by someone who feels I think I’m all that because I go to college. I have to be careful because someone might get jealous and decide that they don’t want me around anymore. That’s the way it is. So, I usually stay at school.”
This self-sufficiency, in addition to West’s confidence and desire to excel in everything he pursues led the Notre Dame coaches to tab him a team captain, in addition senior runner Phil Mishka.
“Marshaun has a great work-ethic, a tremendous competitive spirit and he is liked by his teammates,” says head coach Joe Piane. “Those are the reasons why we chose him as captain and those are qualities we know he’ll bring to the team.”
West approaches his captain’s role much the same way he approaches a jump or a sprint: he just lets his abilities do the talking and leads by example.
“I’m not the most verbal person, I’m not going to get in everybody’s face or anything like that. But when it’s on the line, my teammates know that I am going to do what I can do, always giving it 110%.”
With the BIG EAST Conference meet quickly approaching, West hopes that this attitude will coax the best from his teammates and allow them to win the conference championship.
“We lost (the championship) last year by 2.5 points, and I want this team to win it. I think we have a better team than last year, a better core, and we definitely have a legitimate shot at winning the BIG EAST.”
If Marshaun West’s confidence rubs off on his teammates, expect the Irish to win that championship with West leading the way.