Olympic world record holder Melaine Walker is set to become the third Jamaican-born athlete to enter the University of Texas Longhorns Women’s Athletics Hall of Honour.
The 30-year-old, who won the 400-metre hurdles event in a record 52.64 secs. at the Beijing Olympics five years ago, will be inducted on November 1.
Walker, who completed her post-secondary education at the University of Texas after spending two seasons at Essex County College in New Jersey, is one of the top hurdlers in Longhorn history. She is a three-time National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) champion, an eight-time United States track & field and cross country coaches association All-American and six-time Big 12 champion.
She completed her two years at the university ranked second all-time in the program’s history in the 400-metre hurdles with a collegiate-best mark 58.47 secs. and she still ranks third in the 100-metre hurdles (12.75 secs.) and the 60-metre hurdles (8.05) and fourth in the 55-metre hurdles (7.77).
Graduating in 2006 with a degree in applied learning and development – youth and community studies, Walker went on to represent Jamaica with distinction, winning gold medals in Beijing in 2008 and Berlin a year later at the world championships.
Walker joins Sandie Richards who was inducted last year and Sanya Richards-Ross, who was installed a year earlier, as the only Jamaican-born athletes to be inducted since the Hall of Honour was established in 2002.
Richards won gold medals in the 400-metre and 4 x 400-metre events at the world indoor championships in Toronto two decades ago while Richards-Ross, a middle-distance runner who represents the United States, is the holder of 10 Olympic and world championship gold medals.
Walker’s coach – Bev Kearney – was inducted in 2006. The first Black to win NCAA team championships in Division One track & field, she resigned last January after being the head coach for 20 years.
Kearney, who guided the Lady Longhorns to six NCAA titles, is paralyzed from the waist down after a Boxing Day 2002 single-vehicle accident near Jacksonville, Florida. Michelle Freeman, who won a bronze medal for Jamaica at the 1996 Olympics and is the interim assistant coach at the University of Texas, was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident that claimed the lives of her mother – Muriel Wallace – and the university women’s athletics department academic counsellor Ilrey Sparks who represented Jamaica in the 400-metre and 4 x 400-metre events at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
Sparks’ daughter – who was two years old at the time – survived the accident.