International tracksters adapt

BY KATRINA DO | APRIL 04, 2014 5:00 AM

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Astrid Montuclard — a native of Tahiti — has learned the key to success halfway across the world: always be good.

Like many student-athletes coming from overseas, the freshman distance runner faces challenges that come along with adjusting to a new culture. For Montuclard, the biggest difference between Americans and Tahitians is the mentality — something that has helped her in her journey away from home.

“I like this mentality of always being positive,” Montuclard said. “People are always good — what’s up? I’m good.”

While “I’m good,” can serve as a reflexive response to Americans, the Tahitian is certain that it is a reflection of a successful country. The positive mentality of Americans is what has helped Montuclard through her transition.

“American people are very focused on their goals — I find it really motivating,” she said. “They see struggle as an opportunity to get better, and it’s a great environment to get better here.”

The freshman is just one out of the women’s track team’s six international athletes but the only one who is not competing on a scholarship. She is also the first athlete that head coach Layne Anderson has ever seen to come from the islands in the South Pacific.

As a native of a warm environment, Montuclard said nothing about the frigid Iowa winters; however, she did note her confusion with the slang term “swag,” which may also be heard in a variety of forms, such as “swaggy,” or “swagger.”

Teammate Carissa Leacock, a senior triple jumper from Trinidad, finds the weather has been a big part of her transition.

“Since I’ve been in Iowa, I’ve seen snow for the first time,” she said. “I have experienced all four seasons, including a summer and a Fourth of July.”

The senior shares the same ideals and appreciations with Montuclard. Leacock has learned to deal with the long distance away from her home and family in order to pursue her dreams. 

“This isn’t a criticism of our American kids, but it seems like our international kids seem to jump in with more conviction and purpose,” coach Layne Anderson said. “Perhaps it’s because they’ve come a long way and recognize the opportunity they have — they seem more appreciative and don’t take things for granted.

“You go on the fifth trip of the year, and our international kids are thanking you like it’s their first time.”

The Hawkeyes will travel to Fayetteville, Ark., this weekend to compete in the Arkansas Spring Invitational, the second meet of the outdoor season.

“The internationals we have are obviously big contributors with outstanding credentials, and they’re doing big things,” Anderson said.

While it may not be a huge difference, Fayetteville is approximately 400 miles closer to Tahiti than is Iowa City.

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