After a brief adjustment period, scholar-athlete Alethia Marrero succeeds at State — both academically and on the track — including a shot at the 2016 Olympics.
Several colleges recruited Indiana State University junior Alethia Marrero because of her athletic ability. But the political science and legal studies major who is minoring in language studies, chose State because of the response from faculty members during her college search and the reputation of the Sycamores’ track and field program.
“When I was looking for colleges, I emailed professors from majors I was interested in, and ISU’s professors were the only ones who emailed me back,” she said. “They gave me a lot of information and encouraged me and said they were excited to see me back. That was the major reason for my decision. Also, after visiting campus and getting to know my coach’s philosophy and, obviously, the success of Indiana State’s track and field team, if I wanted to stay in state, I knew that Indiana State was the best, compared to Indiana or Purdue.”
Marrero led her Ben Davis High School 400-meter relay team to a state championship in 2013. Upon arriving on campus, Marrero experienced the same adjustment to college life that many students feel — on the track as well as in class.
“From going an eight-hour, all school intensive day in high school to having just a couple of classes a day, the first couple of months I had so much free time, weekdays felt like the weekend,” she said. “I had to take it on myself to do my assignments. When I thought I had free time, I should have been working on homework.”
She soon found plenty to keep her busy, including Feminist Majority, the Hispanic Student Association and Student Athletic Advisory Committee and as a writing tutor in the university’s Math and Writing Center.
Nowadays, “the only way I can get through the day is writing lists,” she said. “I don’t spend any time doing nothing. I carefully organize every day.”
Marrero said she “became an intellectual” at Indiana State and not just from taking classes.
“It’s the relationships I have with my professors and the classes I’ve taken,” she said. “I’ve never been able to leave campus and feel I’ve left school. School is always with me. When I leave class, I’m still thinking about what we were talking about in class. It’s made me a better person — more open-minded, more cultured. I don’t want to think about that my life would have been like without Indiana State, both academically and athletically.”
Angie Martin, head women’s track and field coach, called Marrero “a great fit” for Indiana State.
“She is very intelligent and wants to know why we do the things we do,” Martin said. “That is part of the reason she has become so good. She has a great desire to understand everything around her and challenges things she doesn’t believe to be right. Her work ethic has carried over to her teammates and it is amazing watching her discover the strong woman that she wants to be.”
Greg Bierly, executive director of the University Honors Program, said, “Alethia is clearly an exemplary athlete, but she is also a shining star academically. I marvel at her accomplishments on the track, knowing the significant intellectual effort involved in completing the Honors Program and its global perspectives elective option.”
Marrero’s family game to the U.S. mainland from Puerto Rico, first living in New Jersey before moving to Indiana when she was 4. Last summer, she competed for Team Puerto Rico in the Pan American Games and has a good shot at making the Olympics in 2016, something she never expected when she came to Indiana State.
“I have all of my classes through my senior year planned out and am planning to graduate in 2017, but now, as a senior, I will compete for Team Puerto Rico. That kind of throws my plans off,” she said, adding that she’s prepared to attend law school part-time if her track success continues.
“My athletic story is funny,” Marrero said. “All those colleges that wanted me wanted me for the heptathlon, and my coach, the first time she saw me, said, ‘You’re going to be a really good 800 runner.’ This year, I was fifth in the nation. If I had gone anywhere else, who knows if I would have even made it to nationals — ever.”