Multi-dimensional athlete Jelese Alexander is gearing up for a hectic new year.
The Tobagonian recently received a full scholarship to Essex County College in Newark, New Jersey and will pursue her associate degree in Cyber Security and Network Technology for the next two years.
Alexander, 18, specialises in high jump, 200 metre sprint and football. At Essex County, she will have the chance to compete in all three disciplines. The youngster is expected to chart off to the US before year's end. Her semester begins on January 10.
Domestically, Alexander competes for Zenith Athletic Club and Jewel Sports Club (football). She is excited to begin this new chapter of her growing sports career.
"I am truly elated to be granted a scholarship where I can do both athletics and football. Although I am very good at football and sprinting, I do have a deep love for high jump, my favourite event, so this makes it even better.
"My plans are to improve my skill and techniques. Learn fast, train hard, compete well. As far as this opportunity takes me I will show up and give my best. I would like to reach the Olympics with it someday," she said.
Alexander, who hails from Bon Accord, was very active from a young age and started doing karate from age four. She also did swimming, dancing and played the steel pan. At age 13, she opted to focus on track and field and football.
As part of the Zenith Athletic Club, she was exposed to various athletic games. She won high jump gold and three silvers (long jump, 200m and 4x400m relay) at the 2017 Tobago Intercol in March.
One month later at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo, the youngster won gold in the high jump (1.53m). She bagged another high jump gold (1.56m) and was fourth in the long jump (4.44m) at the National Junior Championships.
And at the Signal Hill school sports, she captured triple gold in the long jump, 200m and 4x100m relays. There, Alexander snagged silver in the girls' 100m.
While her success in track and field continued, Alexander also began training with the national Under-15 women's football team in 2015 and 2016.
In 2017, she scored the most goals (26) in the Girls' Secondary School Football League (SSFL), was the only Tobagonian selected for the national all-star team. Alexander was also adjudged the MVP and striker of the National Under-14 Elite Tournament.
The very next year, she was selected to play for TT Under-15 football team in USA but the team did not attend owing to visa issues.
In 2019, she was named to the national Under-17 team which toured Panama and was again selected to the national SSFL all-star team. She also received the Excellence in Football and Athletics Award from Signal Hill Secondary.
On receiving her well-deserved scholarship, Alexander said, "I participated in the College Identification Programme in 2018/19 and one of the coaches from that called me some months ago, Anthony Roy.
"He asked for a highlight video of me in football. My mother, Cheva Alexander, arranged the video which included some of my athletic videos simply because they indicated that they were interested in a footballer with speed.
"They (Essex) were impressed and indicated that they would also forward the video to the track coach Lionel Leach to determine their interests as well. Both athletic and football coaches were interested and I was sent an application form to complete."
Alexander is currently awaiting receipt of her visa to depart TT. Her accomplishments, she said, is the product of years of hard work under several esteemed local coaches, who she acknowledged helped her become the multi-sport athlete she is today.
She added, "Jewels Sports Club has been my football club since about age 12/13. I initially started with 1976 Phoenix for a couple years and was the only female and youngest player on the team at that time.
"Signal Hill Secondary School was where all the school championships were repeated year after year. Coach Ray Mitchell and his team made a big difference in my football journey in both my club and high school teams.
"I have been a member of Zenith Athletic Club since age five. My trainers are Gerard Franklyn (sprint) and Aluko Chadband (high jump). Overall I've been blessed with some very great coaches in my lifetime."