Salukis’ cousins bond on track
When the adjustment to life away from home became difficult for Bahamas natives Kenya Culmer and Doug Palacious, they used track and a strong friendship to ease their transition to SIU.
Culmer and Palacious, both sophomore jumpers on the SIU track and field team, are cousins from Nassau and both transferred from St. Augustine’s College High School in their hometown.
Palacious received a scholarship to SIU in the fall of 2010. Culmer followed, also with a scholarship, the next semester. Both say their realtionship has played a huge role in their successful transition to life in southern Illinois.
Palacious said children who grow up in the Bahamas begin to participate in track at a young age. Because their uncle was their trainer, Palacious said he witnessed many of his cousins become Division I track athletes.
Culmer said Palacious began to participate in club track teams in the area when he was around 4 years old, and she started a little bit later.
Andre Scott, SIU jumping coach, said athletes in the Bahamas are trained by private club coaches such as Peter Pratt, who coached former Saluki jumper and MVC champion Bianca Stuart. Scott said he successfully recruited Bahamian athletes before, when he recruited Stuart out of Queens College in 2006. After he scouted Stuart, Scott said his relationship with Pratt developed, which eventually led him to Palacious.
Scott said he first noticed Palacious when the jumper was 14 years old, while Palacious participated for his club team.
“I’ve always been recruiting the Caribbean kids,” Scott said “Usually it’s Jamaica, but the Bahamas have been nice to us. We’ve had a bunch of Bahamians come (to SIU) since the 70s … they’ve all been pretty decent athletes.”
When Scott scouts athletes, he said he first looks for natural ability and the skill to generate power from the hips during jumps. He said he noticed both right away from Palacious.
“I saw Douglas practicing, and the kid could take a lot of jumps and he wasn’t bad technically either,” Scott said. “Three years later, I was recruiting him. The reason why I got him here is because I knew the kid could jump.”
Palacious said his greatest adjustment to southern Illinois was the weather.
During winter months, the average temperatures in Carbondale are in the mid-20s, which is about 40 degrees colder than the Bahamas.
“My first semester in the fall, it was good. But once it started to get cold, I really wanted to go back home,” Palacious said. “I couldn’t see the sun. Back home I could always see the sun and it kept us warm.”
Culmer said she followed her cousin to SIU in the second semester of the 2010-11 school year and found the adjustment just as difficult.
“My first week I was crying like a baby; I was ready to go home,” Culmer said. “But I knew I had to do it, because this is a great opportunity and I couldn’t just let it go like that.”
Palacious said his relationship with his cousin is so close, he sees Culmer more as a sister. By the time Culmer got to SIU, she said Palacious was already adjusted to campus life. Culmer said it was her cousin’s comfort that gave her someone to lean on when she was homesick.
Culmer and Palacious both said they also credit Scott as a major contributor to their transition to SIU. When practice would be difficult, they said they were at ease and knew Scott had their best interest at heart.
“I can go through the workouts knowing that coach is cool and that I can always relate to him and talk to him about anything,” Palacious said.
While Scott has a good relationship with his jumpers, Culmer said he knows when to push them.
“He expects a lot from us. When we’re dealing with little small injuries and we feel like we can’t make it, he’ll push us through it,” Culmer said.
The duo started the 2011-2012 season with winning performances. During Culmer’s first event this season, she won the high jump, which placed her third in SIU history. In the team’s next meet, Palacious won the triple jump with a 49-01 jump.
Despite their success, both said their aspirations will continue to rise. Both Culmer and Palacious said during their careers, they hope to qualify for outdoor regionals and nationals, as well as make the Bahamian national team.
Both also said they are interested in eventually competing in the Olympics, but that would be in the distant future.
“They’re serious about what they’re doing,” Scott said. “They train hard and do whatever I want them to do. They know being here on scholarship that they have to earn their money. And that’s what they’re doing.”