Spotlight on Sports, Highlighting Black Excellence at the 5Cs

To celebrate Black History Month, TSL interviewed five students about their experiences being Black athletes at the 5Cs.

Wendy Wambo Wendja (Scripps)

(Courtesy: CMS Athletics)

Wendy Wambo Wendja is an international student from Italy studying abroad this year at Scripps College. While in Milan, she attended the Università degli Studi di Milano, where she earned a degree in international and intercultural communications. Last year, through her university, Wambo Wendja was accepted to study and work as a teaching assistant at Scripps. Since coming to Claremont, she has walked onto the Athenas track and field team.

Wambo Wendja has competed in track and field both in Italy and now in the United States. She runs the 100 and 200 meter sprints and competes in the long jump. While still in Italy, she had taken a break from running and focused instead on her field event. However, since walking onto the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) team this winter, Wambo Wendja began running again and said she had a career highlight last week. 

“I got my 100m times down, it had been a long time since I’d done the 100s and 200s. I got [my 100 meter time] down by almost a second … I was super happy because it felt like all the hard work I had been putting toward that moment had been repaid. I knew it was all worth it,” Wambo Wendja said.

Wambo Wendja said that she has felt welcomed by teammates and coaches as both an international and Black student athlete.

“I’ve been loving it. My teammates are super supportive and also super open. Culturally, of course, everything is new … I’m really glad that I was not the only new one on the team. There were many other new students and that facilitated my integration in the group,” Wambo Wendja said.

Jessica Sloan-Cooper CM ’26

(Courtesy: CMS Athletics)

Jessica Sloan-Cooper is entering her first year on the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps lacrosse team. The Athenas midfielder hails from Oak Park, Illinois, where she earned all-conference honors at Oak Park and River Forest High School. “The Wednesday Journal” quoted Sloan-Cooper’s high school coach in 2022 referring to her as a “dominating midfielder that can score and play great defense.” Sloan-Cooper hopes to bring this energy as she looks to improve and rise to the next level of play beginning her first season on the team.

As the only Black athlete on her team, Sloan-Cooper detailed the complexity of her experience in a white-dominated sport and how the community built by her teammates has helped her find pride in playing lacrosse for CMS.

“I’m not sure how other Black athletes’ experiences or feelings about their CMS sports team [have been]; however, my transition has been pretty good. When I chose to play for CMS, I knew that it would be a white majority that I was going to surround myself with, which kind of  worried me at times, but [it] was never something I feared deeply, and [the] angst I had before has since subsided. It has been much easier for me to get acclimated to the lifestyle in season because it’s [the] second semester … I see my teammates everyday and am able to build connections with them more often. I know people were and still are surprised when they find out that I am on the lacrosse team because it is a white-dominated sport and our team follows the same make up; however, I don’t think that my race has had any effect on my connection with my teammates, the sport and becoming a college athlete. I think being the minority in any situation is nerve-racking so there were times where I felt intimidated because I know I look different. I even presently find myself feeling nervous because I am usually the only Black girl out on the field … but none of my sentiments are brought on by my amazing teammates; they make me feel like I belong [in] every second of every game, play, practice and lift. I feel confident walking around with my CMS [Lacrosse] gear everywhere I go and I feel that I have created my own space as a Black athlete at CMS. Although my experience is positive, I do think there is always more that CMS can do to be more inclusive to their athletes that make up a minority of their team because there is always more to do and better ways to improve. I also say this because I don’t know or hear much about Black athletes’ experiences at CMS and they more than likely differ from mine in some way.”

With the spring season just underway, Sloan-Cooper spoke on her approach to this season.

“My experience generally has been great,” Sloan-Cooper said. “That was the first word that popped into my head when I read the question … It’s not easy and there are low moments that sometimes stick out, but it’s very rewarding … I also haven’t fully realized it, but I have grown extremely fond of seeing my teammates everyday … My teammates are amazing competition and our coaches push us to rise to the next level, so I’m also excited to get better at [lacrosse] for the rest of my time at CMS. Lastly, I am excited to build stronger bonds with my slay teammates.”

Lucas Grandison HM ’24

(Courtesy: CMS Athletics)

After his first-year season was canceled due to COVID-19 and his sophomore year derailed by injury, Lucas Grandison is concluding his first true season as a member of the CMS men’s basketball team. One of two Harvey Mudd College students on the roster, the physics and math major dropped a season-high 10 points to go along with three steals off the bench during the Stags’ 87-54 rout of Chapman on Feb. 9. The wing is a native of Berkeley, California and is looking forward to CMS’s playoff game against Redlands at 7:00 p.m. tonight.

On his experience as a Black athlete at CMS, Grandison highlighted his relationship with his teammate Jordan Hunt HM ’23.

“[It] has been an interesting one. I don’t quite prefer to speak too much on it to be honest … But I will say that I have greatly appreciated my fellow teammate Jordan Hunt, who is also the only other Mudd student on my team. He was a perfect person to pair with coming into both Mudd and the CMS basketball team since he and I share so many similarities.”

In the past week, an Instagram page under the handle @5cbet, working alongside a number of Black affinity spaces at the Claremont Colleges, has announced its nominations for the first 5C BET Awards. Receiving a nomination for “Masc Athlete of the Year,” Grandinson spoke of his appreciation for his friends and community.

“First off, I wanna say that I think it’s amazing that we have a 5C BET,” Grandinson said. “I think it’s amazing that my fellow Black students are organizing simply for the sake of showing recognition and appreciation for other Black students in the 5Cs … When it comes to being nominated, I am definitely thankful … a good amount of my homies came to my games to support me even before I started playing, so shouts really go out to them … Even though I’m a newly-playing athlete, there are still a lot of opportunities left to prove why I’m the Masc Athlete of the Year.

Olivia Richards PZ ’25

(Courtesy: Sagehen Athletics)

Olivia Richards PZ ’25 is a member of the Pomona-Pitzer track and field team. Unfortunately, due to injury, she has been unable to compete for the past two years. Despite this setback, Richards said she still loves being an athlete because of the environment of like-minded people it invites her into.

“In general, I really like the community that being an athlete builds. I like people with a similar mindset of getting better at what we’re doing. It’s always nice to have people who have the same passion as you,” Richards said.

However, according to Richards, her welcoming teammates and their supportive community does not make up for the lack of representation on her team and at Pitzer College in general. Richards is one of only a few Black women on the Sagehens track and field team, a fact that she says has to do with the school’s shortcoming in admission. 

“At Pitzer where there aren’t a lot of Black athletes, I believe there’s only a handful of us … The school hasn’t really admitted [the amount of] Black students that I feel like should’ve been. Especially at Pitzer, as they have advertised diversity and that this was not exactly what I thought [I would get] when I got here,” Richards said. 

She spoke on what next steps could be. 

“We can always use more Black athletes,” Richards said. “That’s all.”

Mohammed Ahmed PO ’23

(Courtesy: Sagehen Athletics)

Mohammed Ahmed is a Sudanese-American javelin thrower for P-P track and field. A molecular biology major on the pre-med track, Ahmed placed first in the javelin throw at multiple meets last year and claimed seventh in the event at P-P’s all-comers meet this February. Now entering his final season as a Sagehen, Ahmed is looking forward to spending time with his team and picking up some new skills.

Reflecting on his time at P-P as a Black athlete, Ahmed praised his teammates for creating a welcoming environment.

“My experiences have been great and I’ve felt very welcome on the team,” Ahmed said. “Even though I am a minority, being a part of the team has been family-like, and I’ve experienced nothing but growth alongside my teammates. The team itself is diverse, and this has definitely contributed to my comfort on the team and to the depth of community we have built.”

In reviewing his career as a whole, Ahmed is thankful for maintaining track and field throughout his collegiate experience and has high expectations for the spring.

“Even [though] I lost two seasons due to COVID, my time as an athlete has been great,” Ahmed said. “I didn’t think I’d be able to continue my time in track and field after high school, so having any time within this sport is a blessing. I’ve been able to progress so much within javelin and have picked up high jumping, so I’m still learning even with my time ending. This season will be big for me and the team and I have big hopes for us this year. Competition will be good, but we’re working hard to win it.”

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