It sure seems as if Jacqueline Madogo, "Jacq" to her friends and clubmates, made the right choice when she decided to switch sports.
Madogo arrived on the University of Guelph campus in 2018 as a recruit for the women’s soccer team. A defender, she played in 13 games in her second season, starting 11 of them, and had a goal – a game-winner, no less.
But she’d also run track and field at home in high school in Ottawa and there was the thought she might be good at that with some proper training. She’d had the usual high school training in the sport, but had never joined a track club. After all, track was held during the spring and summer, the same as soccer and soccer was her pursuit at the time.
“I met with the soccer coach (Shayne Campbell) because I was a soccer recruit,” Madogo said. “He found out that I did track and he put me in contact with (Gryphon track coach) Jason (Kerr) and I was like I really don't do track that competitively compared to soccer. When I was in high school I played high-level soccer, but I only did school track. My experience was going to OFSAA (the provincial high school track championship meet) and that was it. Then one thing led to the other and I ended up on the track team and ever since then I've been on the team and I no longer play soccer. It's been quite a journey in Guelph.”
“The long and the short story is she came from soccer and I didn't think she'd make our team,” Kerr said. “I actually advised her to consider not trying out because I didn't think it was a good option so it tells you how much I know about this, right?”
That thought soon changed.
“When she came on the team, we knew within weeks that we were dead wrong in our initial assessment,” Kerr said. “Her first race, she was immediately in the top few sprinters we'd ever had in our program – in her first-ever indoor track and field race. She had immense, immense physical gifts. She just had no experience so it's been a couple of years to just get her the requisite experience to find success at this level.”
Now the fourth-year sciences student is full-time track as she’s dropped soccer. During the school year she runs for the Gryphons and she recently capped off her season with gold in the U Sports national championship meet at Saint John, N.B., winning the women’s 60 metres with a clocking of 7.30 seconds, just off the school record of 7.29 set by Shyvonne Roxborough, the only other Gryphon to ever win the event and she did it twice in 2017 and 2019.
“It was a pretty good season,” Madogo said of her year with the Gryphons. “The team did well. We won both men’s and women’s titles (at both the U Sports and OUA provincial meets). It was fun and I really like being part of this team. Everybody works hard and it obviously makes you want to work hard every day. The work ethic in this team is incredible.”
And her own performance?
“Being U Sport champion was just something that happened,” she said. “It was a pretty surreal moment. My whole family was there. It was great having them there and being able to share that moment with them.”
Now that the university indoor season is over, Madogo has turned her attention to the outdoor season as a member of Guelph’s Royal City Athletics Club and she’s been just as fast outside.
She won the 100 metres for elite women at the Bob Vigars Classic in London late last month with a time of 11.29 seconds, beating runner-up Crystal Emmanuel by 0.09 seconds. Emmanuel’s a three-time Olympian in the 200m and Canadian champion in both the 100m and 200m.
Last weekend Madogo was second in the 100m at the Classique Montreal with a time of 11.37 seconds while Audrey Leduc of Gatineau won in 11.36.
Both of those events were part of the National Track and Field Tour, a 10-meet tour.
Madogo has obviously been a fast learner as the switch from soccer to track meant a change in her running style.
“I joined the track team my second year after the soccer season,” she said. “It was kind of scary at first, but Jason and the team were very welcoming and I was just trying to soak up as much information as I could while on the track team because it was something new to me. I didn't really know how to run as a track athlete. I knew how to run as a soccer player and we were trying to erase that and make me run like a track athlete. It took a while and we're still learning.”
“Soccer players move in all directions at all times so they're used to moving in kind of choppy, short strides,” Kerr said. “In track it's all about power, it's all about length. It's all about expressing full ranges of motion so I think that's been the adjustment, but frankly, having coached many other team sport athletes, it came to her pretty quickly.”
During the Royal City Inferno Track and Field Festival on Wednesday at Alumni Stadium, another meet on the National Tour, Madogo won the women's 100m in 11.38 seconds.