Texas A & M Athletics Head Coach Pat Henry is tempering expectations for Cayman’s top amateur athlete.
In an interview with Cayman 27 News, the longtime track and field coach says 20-year old freshman Jamal Walton is still adapting to life as a collegiate student-athlete.
“Being apart of a programme isn’t just athletics,” said Henry. “You have to go to school, and you have to be a student. A lot of things we are doing right now is preparing Jamal for what he needs to do.”
Walton echoes those sentiments, saying the transition has been a challenge.
“Training here is way harder than High School,” he said. “This is the environment I chose, so I have to get used to everything.”
Walton has competed just once since the NCAA indoor season opened in December: College Station’s Reveille Invitational 8th December. The 200-and 400-metre national record holder, however, was listed as ‘unattached’ as part of the Men’s 4×400 Relay. Henry says that’s a status he’s carried since arriving in September.
“He ran unattached last semester,” he said. “He may do one run or two runs this semester. I don’t know, we are just kind of waiting to see.”
The cautious approach to Walton’s development seemingly stems from his status as an academic redshirt. According NCAA Division One regulations, “College-bound student-athletes may receive athletics scholarships during their first year of enrollment and may practice during their first regular academic term, but may NOT compete during their first year of enrollment.”
As an unattached athlete, Walton is representing himself, not the school. Henry, although non-committal on the issue, says Walton is on his way to achieving NCAA standards.
“He passed all his subject matter, he did a good job his first semester,” said Henry. “We will just wait and see what we will do with Jamal this first year.”
Injuries have also been a factor. After running the 2018 Florida State Championships hurt, Walton says the issues have lingered.
“I’ve been going to the trainers twice a week, so I should be good,” said Walton. “My injury have been off and on.”
That’s hindered Walton from making the necessary strides to see success at the collegiate level.
“From time to time, that’s keeping him from what I want him to do,” said Henry. “The consistency of training is part of the issue we have to get better at.”
With an eye on the future, Henry says his plan for Walton goes beyond 2019.
“We will probably try to prepare him for next summer, and get him involved in some meets,” he said. “Wherever he needs to go, I will be training him to be ready to do that. If he gets involved with us on the collegiate level this semester, I am just waiting to see what we will try to do.”
Meanwhile, Walton continues to show the confidence that made him just the second High School athlete in athletics history to run sub-45 in the 400-metres.
“I’m going to fight my way to become great.”