When someone mentions UMass Boston, there might be plenty of positive thoughts, but they probably don't include Olympic-caliber athletes. Meet Wadeline Jonathas, who might change that perception. She just earned a slot on Team USA by finishing in third place in the women's 400 meter finals at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon on Sunday. She'll be the first-ever former UMass Boston 'Beacon' to make it to the Olympics as an athlete.
"I made my first Olympic team," Jonathas wrote on Twitter. "And [I'm] going through like 50 different emotions."
I made my first Olympic team. And I going through like 50 different emotions— Wadeline Jonathas (@WadelineJonath1) June 21, 2021
Jonathas, who graduated from Doherty Memorial High School in Worcester, won nine individual NCAA Division III championships in her two years at UMass Boston.
The Hatian-born 13-time-All American earned enough points on her own at the 2018 NCAA indoor meet to secure a team title for the Beacons.
After two years in Boston, Jonathas was recruited to Division I at the University of South Carolina, where she captured national titles in 2019 for the Gamecocks in the indoor 4x400 meter relay and the outdoor 400 meter race.
Charlie Titus, the former longtime athletic director at UMass Boston, said Jonathas had good race times coming out of high school, but she still fell under the recruiting radar. As a freshman, Titus said she made it clear she had her eyes on being an Olympian.
"I thought that her work ethic, her commitment to self-development, I mean this is stuff that she did, I think," he said. "Obviously, she had to have a forum, she had to have a place to practice, she had to have support, she had to have tutelage and those kinds of things that we provided to her for two years. But the credit goes to Wadeline. She just was determined and she made a commitment to her schooling and to her track."
Titus said that UMass Boston has produced several professional athletes over the years, even though that's not necessarily the athletic program's main goal at a Division III institution. Still, he said, her accomplisment falls in line with the objectives of developing strong athletes who can be successful later on in life, not just in sports.
"There's a true sense of pride and everybody's feeling very happy for Wadeline and her success," Titus said. "We feel proud that we were a part of her journey and hopefully she feels like her time with us was time well-spent and helped her prepare for the next steps in her journey."
Although interim Director of Athletics Darlene Gordon came to UMass Boston just after Jonathas had left for South Carolina, the runner's reputation still precedes her on campus.
Gordon pointed out the Jonathas didn't have access to facilities like home indoor and outdoor tracks, yet she was still able to succeed.
"From my perspective, I really think we do a lot with little," Gordon said. "And could you imagine what we could do if we had all of the resources that we need?"
Gordon said UMass Boston is alreay brainstorming on how to properly celebrate Jonathas as the summer games approach and getting the word out to alums that a Beacon will be shining in Tokyo.
"Her participation here at UMass Boston and others that came before her has really blazed a trail for our track program," she said. "And so I just would say supporting our student-athletes here at UMass Boston is important. And when they do get the right support, you see what happens."