‘Walking-on’ at the intercollegiate level for any sport is an arduous task. Most athletes who try out for a Division I team, in particular, have a dismal shot at making the squad. Just don’t tell that to Racquel MacDonald, who was able to walk-on to the Boston College Women’s track and field team and make a name for herself in the ultra-competitive Atlantic Coast Conference.
A steep challenge awaited Racquel in her pursuit of making the roster. After all, she needed to make a prominent impression to the coaching staff that she belonged just as much as the other players that were recruited on scholarship and had been practicing together for two weeks. But withstanding adversity has been part of Racquel’s bravado since her junior year of high school, when she tore her ACL as a member of the Revere High School Patriots.
Racquel’s ‘no-quit’ mentality gave her the utmost confidence necessary to compete once again in the sport she loved, despite suffering a devastating injury. Racquel’s ceaseless determination carried on past her high school years and helped her defy odds to make the Eagles’ roster.
Racquel credits her Revere High track and field coaches, Samnang Ros and Peter DiGiulio, for strengthening her belief in herself as an athlete.
“Coach DiGiulio and Coach Ros constantly believed in me and pushed me harder every practice and meet because they knew I had the potential,” Racquel expressed. “Their faith in me is what truly gave me confidence in my own ability.”
DiGilulio and Ros introduced Racquel to hurdling, an event she now specializes in track meets. Hurdling is widely recognized as the most challenging event in track and field but Racquel was able to thrive in these races because of her keen work ethic.
“Hurdling is not something that comes easy to anyone,” Racquel explained. “It is an event that you thoroughly have to work at. I remember staying at practice hours after the rest of the team left during my freshman and sophomore years with Coach DiGiulio and Coach Ros working on my form, speed, and steps.”
Racquel quickly realized the bright future she had as a hurdler.
“As I kept working I really began to see that I did have potential in this event as I continued to break my own school records, win NEC meets and Championship titles, receive All-Star and Athlete of the Year Awards, and obtain medals at state meets.”
With all the immense success Racquel had in track and field for the Revere High Patriots, it was apparent that Racquel would not be satisfied by simply making the Eagles’ roster. Instead, Racquel sought to have an impact in the Eagles most important meets. Racquel aspirations came true by competing in the ACC Championship’s for the winter and spring track team.
Outwardly apprehensive before competing in the winter ACC Championship, Racquel was calmed down by upper classmen teammates.
“I specifically remember many of the seniors coming up to me before the ACC meets to reassure me that it was okay to be nervous,” Racquel expressed. “They told me that because the coaches chose to have me participate in these large meets they truly believed in my athletic ability and knew I was ready to handle such competition.”
Racquel’s coach, Julie Heyde, knew Racquel had the talent to compete at this championship event. She offered Racquel simple but meaningful words of encouragement before the race. She told Racquel to “just have fun out there.” Racquel still had her usual butterflies before the race but eventually she was able to shed those feelings of anxiety at the perfect time.
“Even though my anxiety was at an all-time high, all the nerves disappeared right when I got down into the blocks at the starting line, just as they do before each one of my hurdle races. From there on it was just another race that I needed to put everything I had in me.”
Racquel’s grit was on display that day as she was able to set a personal record of 9.33 seconds in the 60 meter hurdle. Not only did Racquel record a personal record, she was able to post a time that ranked fourth best for that particular event in the history of Boston College Women’s track and field. Not too shabby for a freshman walk-on.
Racquel was not done achieving personal accolades for her freshman year. Competing in the spring track ACC Championships, Racquel was able to post a personal record in the 400 meter hurdles with a time of 65.3 seconds. She also attained a personal record in the 100 meter hurdles with a blazing 14.93 seconds.
After triumphing in many events in her freshman year, Racquel now has the chance to re-write the record books in Boston College track and field history if she continues to immerse herself in the sport. That shouldn’t be a problem for Racquel, who seems poised for success on and off the track.
“I personally believe that being a student athlete at Boston College has already helped me develop into a more responsible and determined young adult.”