Oct. 22, 2007
Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Thursday, Aug. 2, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2007-08 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
IOWA CITY — For being the unofficial team prankster, Iowa junior Renee White can also show a serious side.
White, who last season became the first female Hawkeye to surpass 42-feet in the triple jump, likes everything about her cohesive track and field team. Now she has a sober message for her teammates:
“I want to see everyone on the team contribute at least one point at the conference meet,” White said. “That means we’re pulling from everywhere and that’s what this team is all about — everyone pulling their own weight.”
White is also hoping those points will be enough to propel Iowa into the top three at the Big Ten Conference championship during both the indoor and outdoor seasons. Last season the Hawkeyes were fifth in the indoor and outdoor campaigns.
The UI coaching staff knows that an improved showing at conference is a strong possibility and White’s efforts on the jumps runway will be key.
“Renee has half of her career remaining and the potential is great,” said Layne Anderson, interim head women’s track and field coach at Iowa. “She has four Big Ten meets left (two indoor and two outdoor), so that means she has eight shots at a conference title. It would be a tall task to win all eight, but you never know with Renee.”
A year ago White set a school record with a leap of 42-1 ½ in the triple jump, which was good enough for second in the Big Ten. She won the triple jump at Auburn, Missouri and at Iowa’s Musco Twilight and placed 12th at the NCAA regional meet. During the indoor season White set a then-school record with a leap of 41-5 ¾.
Not bad for someone who ran hurdles and did the long jump at Wolmer’s Girls’ High School in Portmore, St. Catherine, Jamaica. White also played basketball and net ball in high school before graduating in 2003. After completing “sixth form” in Jamaica, she enrolled at Iowa in fall 2005.
“Renee’s at a point in her career where she needs to be considered one of the all-around premier jumpers in the country. We feel like we’re getting to the level with Renee where we can pencil in `X’ amount of points for the team in the long and triple jumps. That’s a good feeling for our younger kids, knowing that on paper we should already score a certain amount of points because of Renee. That takes pressure off the rest of the team to perform.”
UI Coach Layne Anderson
A hurdle injury has kept White from that event at the collegiate level, but she wants to compete in the 100-meter hurdles this season, which she said could boost her distances in the long and triple jumps as well.
“If I’m doing hurdles, everything else will come in place,” White said. “I feel like that’s the balance right there. That’s the balance I used to have in high school.”
White’s search for equilibrium in her routine stems from last season when she began excelling in the triple jump. Once she started focusing on the triple jump, she felt that she neglected the long jump, which hurt her performances there. White owns a best of 19-9 ¾ in the long jump.
UI assistant coach Victor Houston knows that the track and field community has not seen the best of White — yet. Known as an amazing practice competitor, Houston wants White to take those performances to the bright lights at meets.
“Renee has more talent in her little finger than most people have in their entire bodies,” Houston said. “She is starting to come into her own and is moving from a practice horse to a big-meet competitor.”
When White was weighing her college options, she wanted a school that balanced academics and athletics. Originally a pre-medicine major, she has since changed her major to business. Another attraction was her relationship with Head Coach Jim Grant, who passed away in July.
“I came here thinking that I would be a pre-med major and Iowa has a really good medical program,” White said. “Secondly, I had always heard good things about Coach Grant. My coaches (in high school) said that he was a very respectable man and that he was someone I would enjoy. Coach Grant also came to Jamaica to talk to me and say good things about Iowa. He made sure I was making the right decision.”
Another factor pulling White to Iowa City was the familiar face of one of her high school teammates — Tammilee Kerr — who is a senior multi-event/javelin specialist for the Hawkeyes.
“I didn’t want to go to a school where track was the only focus,” White said. “I wanted a school that balanced both academics and athletics. I love it at Iowa.”
Grant, a Jamaican native, sprinkled the Hawkeye roster with some of the best talent in the Caribbean and elsewhere. White is appreciative of the melting pot that she says aids team chemistry.
“This team is very diverse,” White said. “I’m the type of person who likes to explore other cultures and this team gives me that exact opportunity. Almost everyone is from a different place, which is very good. I want to know and get involved with everyone.”
According to White, the memory of Grant is serving to bond and motivate the team.
“Ever since Coach Grant passed, there has been a substantial amount of unity,” White said. “There is a closeness and everyone is striving to work harder than they used to. Coach Grant is watching us from above so we have to put out our best. The energy is there, the vibe is there and the environment is awesome.”
White is a member of the Iowa Student Athlete Advisory Committee and when there is time between classes and track practice, she works as a Cambus driver, where a flexible schedule was a must. Anderson still considers White a top jumper rather than a top driver.
“Renee’s at a point in her career where she needs to be considered one of the all-around premier jumpers in the country,” Anderson said. “We feel like we’re getting to the level with Renee where we can pencil in `X’ amount of points for the team in the long and triple jumps. That’s a good feeling for our younger kids, knowing that on paper we should already score a certain amount of points because of Renee. That takes pressure off the rest of the team to perform.”
White’s modus operandi for taking pressure of herself and her teammates is through comic relief.
“You can’t be all work and no play,” White said. “I calm myself down (by joking) because I’m just as nervous and I try to make everyone feel comfortable. When it comes down to business, I don’t joke.”
White also enjoys Iowa’s quaint roster size that includes 36 in the preseason.
“We’re a small team, but quantity doesn’t matter,” she said. “We have a huge amount of quality.”
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