By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE – As his injuries mounted, his frustration grew and his spirits sagged. Away from the track, he was struggling to keep up in one of his computer science classes, and relatives back home in Jamaica were going through a trying period.
All of which led Jordan Scott to consider leaving the University of Virginia after his second year and starting anew elsewhere.
“It was a really rough year for me,” recalled Scott, one of the top triple-jumpers in Division I track & field.
His mother, however, stressed to him the value of a UVA degree. At her urging, Scott decided to remain at the University, and his fortunes changed dramatically last summer.
In late June, at the Jamaica senior national championships in Kingston, Scott took first place with a jump of 16.55 meters (54 feet, 3.75 inches), a UVA record. In July, he represented Jamaica at the Athletics World Cup in London, a meet in which eight nations with elite track & field programs competed.
Then, in early August, at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Colombia, Scott set another school record, jumping 16.82 meters (55-2.25 feet).
“I honestly really didn’t expect any of it,” Scott said.
His low expectations were understandable. Scott had closed his second year at UVA with a 10th-place finish at the NCAA outdoor championships in Eugene, Ore. That would have been cause for celebration for many triple-jumpers, but Scott felt he’d underachieved.
“I had a good first year, but my second year was absolutely trash,” he said. “So I left Eugene on a pretty bad note, kind of really down, because the entire outdoor season I was plagued by injuries. It was just a really bad semester for me. So I wasn’t mentally into track and field, I would say.”
He flew from Oregon to Jamaica – his hometown is Portmore – and the familiar surroundings improved his mood. He began training with his high school coach, Patrick Swinton, and “over a period of time things started to come together,” Scott said.
Still, he continued to have issues with his right heel, and he was unsure about competing at Jamaica’s national championships.
“I was saying to myself, ‘I really don’t think I should do it. I think I should call it a season and start fresh next semester,’ ” Scott recalled.
But Swinton told him he had nothing to lose and nothing to prove. Just go out there and jump, Swinton said. Scott decided to compete, but his practice jumps on the eve of the meet were “absolutely horrible,” he said. “Nothing was going right. I couldn’t complete a jump. I just felt out of it.”
He came into the meet totally relaxed, with no expectations. The combination produced memorable results. On his second jump, Scott broke the UVA record of 16.46 meters set by Marcus Robinson in 2012.
“And then from there, I was kind of like, ‘All right, maybe this is what I should be doing,’ ” Scott said. “It was really amazing.”
He carried that positive attitude into his third year at UVA.
“He’s in a great place,” said Virginia assistant coach Mario Wilson, who like Scott is from Jamaica.
Scott is a former Jamaican junior champion in the triple jump, but to win a senior national title was “really surreal,” he said. “Especially when you weren’t even mentally prepping for it. I was kind of counting myself out, so I wasn’t thinking it would ever happen. It was more of a case like, I have nothing to lose, and it turned out to be amazing and kind of set up for one of the best summers I’ve had ever.”
He had every reason to be confident heading into his second year at UVA. But in the fall of 2017, he injured his back while training. Scott rested for about a week and then resumed training, only to hurt his back again.
“It was a pretty depressing fall for him,” Wilson said.
By the start of the indoor season, however, Scott felt healthy again, and he placed second in the triple jump at the ACC meet. But then, during training for the NCAA indoor championships, his Achilles tendon began bothering him.
“So I was jumping a bit scared,” Scott said.
He placed 12th at the NCAA indoor meet, a finish that disappointed him, and then UVA’s medical staff put him in a boot to protect his Achilles. The Cavaliers’ coaches suggested that Scott redshirt during the outdoor season, and he initially agreed.
“But then a lot of things came up,” Wilson said, “and he was like, ‘I don’t see myself staying here for a fifth year. I can’t afford to do it. I don’t even know if I’m staying here for four years.’ I was like, ‘Whoa!’ And he said, ‘I want to go.’ ”
The thought of not competing for several months “was tearing me apart mentally,” Scott said. “Eventually I decided to just push through [the injury].”
When he finally was cleared to jump last spring, Scott performed well, and his confidence grew. But then he injured his right heel while practicing the long jump, his secondary event. The pain persisted through the rest of his outdoor season at UVA and into the summer.
“It was horrible,” Scott said. Even back in Jamaica last summer, “I would take a jump, and then I’d have to take my spikes off, I’d have to ice it down to numb it, and then put my spikes back on to take another jump. Sometimes it would be numb enough for me to jump again. Sometimes it would still be hurting. It was just a really bad experience.”
He persevered, though, and learned valuable lessons from the adversity he faced.
“If I’m ever put in that position again, I’ll know how to deal with it better, in the sense where it doesn’t affect me as much as it affected me last season,” Scott said. “I was doubting everything, and as I stuck to it, despite having a feeling of wanting to give up, I saw how amazing the summer was. You always think about, ‘What if I had called it quits?’ Now I feel like I know everything will pan out in the end. If it is to happen, it will happen.”
Scott, who lives with UVA pole-vaulter Sam Young and former UVA javelin-thrower Anthony Bouselli, is scheduled to make his 2019 indoor debut this weekend at the Columbia Challenge in New York.
Indoors, he ranks second all-time at UVA in the triple jump, behind Robinson, and eighth in the long jump. Outdoors, Scott holds the program record in the triple jump and ranks third in the long jump.
“I’m excited,” Scott said. “It should be an amazing year.”
He’s in a better place academically too. In Jamaica, Scott attended a prestigious high school, Campion College, and distinguished himself in the classroom as well as in track & field. “He’s a brilliant kid,” Wilson said.
Asked if it’s fair to call him a computer wiz, Scott smiled. “I would like to believe so,” he said.
He developed an interest in computers growing up, Scott said, and chose computer science as his major at UVA.
“It’s a major that has its ups and downs,” Scott said. “Sometimes everything will be going smoothly, and then other times you’re struggling to get the program to run or to just understand the concept in general. But I feel like it’s probably one thing I really like, as well as it’s pretty good for the future, after school.”
Wilson said: “Professionally, he will be just fine as a computer scientist, computer engineer. Whatever he wants to do, he’s got the aptitude for it. But in terms of his passion and his talent [as a triple-jumper], he understands that his youth is going to be his best years. And he does have it. He’s a pretty unique talent in the sense of what he possesses [as a jumper], but he’s also doubly gifted in the sense that academically he can [excel too].”
After his summer meets, Scott rested extensively, and the break helped him move past his injuries.
“After a while, everything started to feel better,” he said. “When I finally got back into practice, I could definitely feel the difference.”
Scott said his goal “this year, as it is for every year, is to compete for a national championship. Coming off the summer I had, mentally I feel like I’m there, and I think that Coach Wilson will get me there physically. I’m really pretty confident about it. I’m really excited to see where I am.”