By Derek Noehren, Contributor
Lianne McNaughton, Kathie-Lee Laidley and Denneil Shaw all took their love for track to the next level when they left their home country of Jamaica to come to an unknown place called Nebraska.
“I didn’t know where (Nebraska) was when I landed,” McNaughton said. “I found out after where I was when I was there.”
Shaw and Laidley, both junior jumpers on the team, knew each other before coming to UNO from St. Andrew High School for Girls in Portmore, Jamaica, near the capital city of Kingston. Senior thrower Lianne McNaughton attended Campion College High School in Kingston before coming to UNO.
All three are major contributors to a team that looks to be one of the strongest in The Summit League.
Last weekend in the Dordt College Indoor Invitational at Sioux City, Shaw set personal bests in the long jump and triple jump. Shaw finished third in both
events with a mark of 18-11 ¾ in the long jump and 37-09 ½ in the triple jump.
Last year Laidley won the long jump five out of six times and set a school record with a jump of 19-11 at the Wildcat Classic at Wayne State on March 31.
McNaughton redshirted last season, but in 2010 she had a shot put throw of 45 feet 10 ½ inches on May 7 at the MIAA Outdoor Championship. The throw earned her a fourth place finish and an NCAA provisional qualifying mark into the NCAA championship.
Although the girls had been to America before, their previous trips were to the east and west coast and they did not know what to expect when they arrived in Nebraska.
“I knew it would be a new experience, but I didn’t know it would be like this,” Shaw said.
The pace of life in the Midwest, compared to Jamaica and their previous visits to the United States, was another stark contrast for the trio.
“For me personally, the culture is a lot slower,” McNaughton said. “It’s a lot different.”
The culture has taken time to get used to, but one thing all three agreed they missed the most about home is the food.
“When I go home, almost every single day I have a cheese patty coco bread and a pineapple soda,” McNaughton said.
Cheese patty coco bread is a traditional Jamaican food that can contain a variety of meat fillings, but usually beef, baked inside a pastry shell.
Although there is a Jamaican restaurant in Omaha, the girls are used to the home cooking they only find in Jamaica.
“Back at home we don’t have to pay for food like that, your parents just cook it,” Shaw said.
The UNO women’s track team is extremely diverse, with members from Russia, Slovenia, Jamaica and America. The mixture of cultures was different and at first took time to get used to for the three.
“You have to learn to be more open minded and more accepting of other cultures,” McNaughton said. “People might think the way we act is rude and abrasive, but that’s just how we are, so just having an open mind towards everything definitely contributed to us being more confident.”
The girls’ hometown is often the source of a common misconception among people who have never been to Kingston. Outsiders often consider it crime ridden and dangerous.
“It’s just like everywhere,” Shaw said. “It’s just one part (of Kingston) and everybody else is fine.”
There were a few other common misconceptions Americans have about Jamaica that all three have run into several times.
“The main question people always ask is if I watch Cool Runnings,” McNaughton said. “Whenever people find out we’re from Jamaica, they always try to speak in our accent and they say ‘Jamaican me crazy’ or something like that.”
The UNO women’s track has had two meets so far this season, and their next will be the Nebraska Wesleyan Invitational in Lincoln, Neb. on Jan. 18.