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Know Your Track Star: Jess St. John

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The Kansas State shot putter is from one of the world’s smallest countries but carries big dreams

2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images

Kansas State senior Jess St. John is having a moment. Since the beginning of the indoor track season with the K-State Winter Invitational in December 2017, she’s done no worse than third place (at the Big 12 Indoor Championships) and has taken first place in six other events so far.

St. John came to Kansas State via a route familiar to many students in Manhattan: she went to junior college first. At Central Arizona Community College, she won the shot put national title at the 2016 NJCAA Outdoor Championships with a throw of 16.27 m, still a personal best. She also added a Top 10 finish in the discus and placed fourth in the shot put event at the NJCAA Indoor Championships.

Although she was born in the US Virgin Islands and is technically American, she competes for the island nation where she grew up, Antigua & Barbuda, a place with a population less than that of Topeka, Kansas. The place is home to legendary cricketer Sir Vivian Richards, but has never won a medal at the Olympics or at the Commonwealth Games.

Notably, St. John is the only shot putter from her country. She’s been on the national track and field squad at the NACAC Under-23 Championships in 2016 and the CARIFTA Games in 2010 and 2013. In 2016, she was voted Antigua and Barbuda’s Sportswoman of the Year.

At the Gold Coast, she’s part of a small seven-member contingent of Antiguan and Barbudan track and field athletes, and one of only two women on the team. She’ll take part in the shot put qualifying round beginning at 6 AM on Thursday, April 12. If she makes the finals—possible, although unlikely—she’ll see action on Friday at around 5 AM.

The 2018 Commonwealth Games, also called the XXI Commonwealth Games, are currently in progress at the Gold Coast in Australia. The Games conclude on April 15, 2018.