Junior sprinter Quantasia Perry broke the Eastern Kentucky University record for the indoor 200-meters following her performance at the Marshall Classic on Feb. 6. Perry earned a time of 24.27, surpassing the 24-year-old record of 24.28 held by Felecia Hawkins.
After her race, her coach told her she was close to the record. As the results appeared on the screen, her feat was confirmed.
“I was happy when I broke it,” Perry said. “We knew I was going to run faster than 24.28, or hoped I would run faster. It was just a matter of when I was going to do it.”
It’s one thing to break a school record. It’s another to keep it. Perry hopes to lower her time, knowing her teammates are right behind her, chasing the record.
“I hope to lower it because I know I have younger teammates under me that are definitely going to break 24.27 soon,” said Perry. “I definitely want to keep it for a short period at least.”
Perry’s accomplishment may be the biggest reward of her career. Yet, Perry does not have the typical student-athlete experience. On top of competing and earning a degree in elementary education, Perry is a mom to her two-year-old daughter, Kali.
Kali was born following Perry’s freshman year. Two years later, juggling academics, athletics, and parenting is not as daunting as one may think. While Kali is at daycare, Perry completes her assignments and attends practices. If Perry has a meet, one of her classmates watches Kali.
After finding out she was pregnant, Perry began researching and found the Eastern Scholar House Program. She met with Director Melissa Gross and was able to get a spot coming into her sophomore year.
The Eastern Scholar House Program opened in 2017. The program mainly assists single parents pursuing a college degree through housing and childcare services, as well as various workshops and educational supports. Children under five years of age must attend the on-site child development center.
Perry also benefits from the Eastern Kentucky University Center for Student Parents. This center provides support, preparation and guidance as parents earn a college degree and pursue their professional goals.
Many people in Perry’s life provide support as she balances being a student-athlete and a mother. However, The Eastern Scholar House Program allowed Perry to meet other students that understand her situation more than most people.
“We’re all in the same predicament, we’re all mothers in school, so they understand my situation more than my teammates would. They talk to me and cheer me on and encourage me and support me as well,” Perry said.
Outside of the Eastern Scholar House Program, Perry relies on the support of her teammates, coaches and mother. In certain situations, Perry’s mother may drive up from her hometown of Covington, Georgia, and watch Kali during overnight meets.
The flexibility of Perry’s coaches has allowed her to manage her various responsibilities. Over time, Perry has developed a schedule and routine that works best for her and Kali. What seemed hard a year ago is normal life today, partly due to the coaching staff’s understanding of her situation.
“To have a coach that understands sometimes you have to bring your child to practice, understands sometimes you’re gonna have to miss practice because it’s too cold and she can’t come to practice, or have a coach understand that you have to lift after 7:30 because 7:30 is when the daycare opens, or you might have to finish practice before 5 o’clock because that’s when the daycare closes,” Perry said. “You have to find coaches that are willing to work with you.”
Not every athlete has a program that is willing to work with athletes with different circumstances. At EKU, Perry noted student-athletes are treated as more than athletes.
“EKU is a wonderful place, they have wonderful resources and they have people that actually care about you outside of just an athlete,” said Perry.
In Perry’s case, other schools might not have given her the opportunity to continue her athletic career, but EKU gave her the chance.
“There’s some places that’ll be like ‘Okay, bye’ but EKU’s not like that. They care about their athletes like we’re not just athletes. They see us as people as well.”
Above all, Kali serves as one of Perry’s biggest pieces of motivation. While some may have given up on their dreams after having a child, Perry would not let that be her story.
“I don’t want her to ever feel like she ruined my dreams. She’s never a burden on my life. I chose to have her so then I had to choose to still chase my dream and have her, so she never interfered with any of that. It might’ve been difficult but she was a motivation, not like a hurdle in a way,” Perry said.