Tacoma athlete at WSU touts opportunities, not obstacles

dave.boling@thenewstribune.comApril 7, 2013 

Assistant track coach Mark Macdonald thinks hurdler/sprinter Shaquana Logan deserves consideration as Washington State’s top student-athlete.

When he sat to compose the recommendation letter for her, Macdonald filled two pages with the accomplishments of the Tacoma native.

No wonder; she’s on the school’s all-time top-10 list in six events, volunteers with half a dozen charity and outreach programs, and is set to graduate with a 3.28 grade-point average with her eyes set on law school.

“Shaquana is one of the best women’s track athletes in WSU school history,” Macdonald wrote.

While imposing at face value, those achievements are amplified by the context Macdonald supplied, telling of Logan’s periods of homelessness as a child and exposure to threatening events that included a near-miss drive-by shooting when she and her sisters were merely walking to the store for candy.

Since Logan’s next complaint or appeal for sympathy will be her first, Macdonald didn’t know of her full background until

compiling her story for his recommendation.

“Nobody really knows the homeless (part of the) story,” Logan said last week. “Maybe they should; maybe hearing about it can help somebody else.”

Consumed by her daily demands, Logan said she doesn’t spend much time looking anywhere but forward.

“I get so occupied doing things in the now, this kind of helped me remember that it’s been a long road and that I’m working for something more.”

The memories?

“I remember the drive-by (shooting) my sister and I got caught in,” she said. “And I remember not having a home to stay in for a while, and the dinners at the shelter, waiting in line for food at Christmas, and the Santa Claus coming with a bag of presents.”

Wait, Shaquana, rewind, please: The drive-by?

“I remember being scared and running for my life,” she said.

How old were you?

“Umm … third grade.”

When asked of the effects of hardship, she mostly recalls the social stigma, which caused her to often get off the bus at stops distant from her home so the other kids wouldn’t see where she was living.

“I remember being in class, and because my clothes weren’t like the other kids’, they made fun of me,” she said. “I remember putting on shoes one time that were much smaller than my foot size because I thought they would help me fit in better.”

The pain of that day, she says, was nearly a breaking-point moment. Her response? She dedicated herself to school and sports.

“I realized I didn’t want to be in that spot (forever); I wanted to make my life better for me and for my family. There were shootings and people on drugs, so I wanted to make sure when I grew up I was able to help my family.”

As an assistant coach at Bellarmine Prep, Ed Boitano met Logan when she transferred from Lincoln High, and he eventually recommended Logan to the coaches at WSU.

“She was such a natural talent who was really a good athlete who also did very well in school,” said Boitano, whose son Tony pole-vaulted for the Cougars. About the time Logan won the state 100-meter hurdles as a senior, Boitano gave Cougars coaches Rick Sloan and Macdonald some insight on Logan.

“I told them she was the exact kind of individual you would want on your team, always so positive, who worked so hard to improve, who never complained and always wanted to do more to help her get better,” Boitano said. “What always impressed me was the way she kept that attitude despite the adversity she’d gone through. I told them she’s the kind who just makes you feel great every time you see her.”

Macdonald at times worries that Logan is stretching herself too thin, and he’s learned that he has to be wary of her single-minded determination.

He tells of a meet in Seattle when she was bleeding through her shoes. When he tried to diagnose the reason, “she just said, ‘Don’t worry about it, I’m fine, Coach,’ ” Macdonald said. “She doesn’t think of anything as an excuse or a reason to complain. She is really, really tough.”

It is customary for Logan to be entered in more events per meet than any Cougars athlete, but she took it to an extreme at the indoor conference meet when she entered the triple jump for the first time in her college career and placed sixth.

“I like the competition,” she said. “I like contributing points to the team; it’s kind of boring just doing one thing and being done.”

Last summer, Logan went back to her old youth team, the 1911 Track Club, and spoke to the kids about her journey.

“I told them to stay in school; you have to get through it because that’s what society expects, and you can’t get a good job without a degree,” she said. “A lot of stuff in life is unpredictable; you never know what is going to happen, but you have to keep moving forward.”

Macdonald concluded his recommendation by listing her passion for school and competition, and for helping others and simply being a good person as reasons for her worthiness.

There were a lot of ways Shaquana Logan’s story could have unfolded, but a key to rising as she has may be found in her perspective: As she looks back, she stresses the value of her opportunities rather than the height of the obstacles.

“Really,” she said. “I am completely grateful.”

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 dave.boling@thenewstribune.com @DaveBoling

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