Between Two Champions

Staff Writer Noah Harris ’26 interviews Jordan Harrison ’26 and Arissa-Grace McGowan ’26, two NESCAC champions in track and field.

A week ago, the Mammoths traveled to Connecticut College to compete in the NESCAC Track & Field Championships. The performances of two freshmen headlined the day as Jordan Harrison ’26 and Arissa-Grace Mcgowan ’26 became NESCAC champions in the 100m and 100m hurdles, respectively. They also ran legs on the 4x100 relay (men finished second, women fourth), and Jordan placed third in the 200m dash. For their stellar performances, they were each awarded with the NESCAC Most Outstanding Rookie Award. Jordan Harrison ’26 and Arissa-Grace Mcgowan ’26 discussed their successful seasons with contributing writer Noah Harris ’26.

Q: Tell me a bit about yourself and what led you to choose Amherst College.

Jordan: I’m Jordan, and I’m from Cleveland, Ohio. The academics here are obviously great, and when I was visiting I saw that the facilities were doable. I also liked the idea of being able to talk to Professors. That’s something I was used to in high school, because I went to a small high school. The town was also nice, I’m a foodie so the options in the town were appealing. I love Asian food, Miss Saigon is my go-to, and I’ve recently started going to Ricelicious.

Arissa: I’m from Dallas, Texas, and I started running track in 9th grade. I chose Amherst College because my brother went here and he really enjoyed his experience.

Track season began 6 months ago in November. Tell me about your season, and how it has led to you becoming a NESCAC champion.

Jordan: In November, I hurt my hamstring so I was a little scared to see how the rest of my season would go. Indoor season was not what I wanted, I had a decent PR coming from high school and I matched it but I didn’t surpass it. I wanted to do more during the indoor season but I didn’t, which definitely fueled me for the outdoor season. I changed my habits outside of the track, and I believe that’s helped me become a NESCAC champion.

Arissa: So my track season was kinda mid, mediocre at best. I had an okay indoor season, and I was really looking forward to the outdoor season. I had a bad first race but ever since then I had a mindset switch about track and everything so coming into the NESCAC Championship, I was really focused on running my race and not worrying about the competition, and luckily I was able to do that.

The weather at the NESCAC championship was certainly inclement, with rain and up to 14 mph wind. Did this affect you at all, and if so how did you overcome it?

Jordan: Yea the weather was ass, obviously it affected my time, but not my mentality. I wanted to go out and win and beat all the people in the NESCAC. I brought a lot of layers, so I was wearing a lot. I was warming up with lots of layers, and then stripped and went when it was time to race. For championship meets, you have to wear as little as possible, no matter how cold it is. You can’t wear long compressions, it restricts your movement.

Arissa: The weather was so bad, I’m not used to running in weather like that because I’m from the South where it’s pretty warm. It doesn’t rain as bad as it was raining at the meet. It wasn’t raining terribly, it was low-key sprinkling, but it was windy. I feel that it definitely affected my race. I still ran an okay time, but I know I could’ve done better if it wasn’t as windy. I was able to overcome the wind by forgetting about the conditions and keeping my clothes on until right before I ran.

Tell me about your race that day; how you felt before and after

Jordan: Prelims were good, I just wanted to make it to finals and I did. I remember [Coach] DJ saying something to me in front of everyone very loudly that “no one could touch me.” Before the race I was just focusing on getting out the blocks as fast as possible and having a good drive phase, and not seeing anyone else during the race; and that’s what happened.

Arissa: The race was good, it felt a little slow due to the wind. I hit a hurdle in the middle of the race, but I didn’t realize that until later. It was a solid race, not anything crazy, but I think for that day it wasn’t about who had the fastest seed time, it was about who had the best mindset to overcome the conditions. There were girls in that race who were faster than me but weren’t able to run faster than me on that day. Your mindset heading into the day really matters. I feel like a lot of people got in their head about the conditions, and like having to run prelims and finals. But you know my shin guards protected me through the prelims and finals (referring to the white calf sleeves she wears).

What has been your favorite memory or experience as a member of the Amherst College track team so far?

Jordan: I would say one thing is J-Term. J-Term is really fun, we were basically here the entire month of January. I’d say a lot of the team got closer, especially the freshman group. Besides competing we had nothing else to do so we just hung out with everyone on the team.

Arissa: I think just the camaraderie at the meets. At the end of the meet, we cheered on the 4x800 relay (who also captured a NESCAC title that day), which was really fun. And then just hanging out with my friends on the bus, at the hotel, and having girls’ nights.

Routine is a big part of athlete’s competition days. What are some songs on your pre-race playlist, and what are your go-to pre-race and post-race meals?

Jordan: I try to eat a good amount of breakfast because I know I’m not going to eat during the meet that much. I try to eat eggs and some type of toast. My pre race food I have to eat every time is PB&J. If I don’t, I think I’m going to suck or run really bad. One time I didn’t eat it though, and ran fine. Post race meals are literally anything and everything because I’ll be hungry. Especially after a long season, I’ll eat a lot of dairy even though I’m allergic to dairy. I’ll break out in a lot of hives but I don’t care. After indoor nationals, I went to a donut place in New York, they had these creme filled donuts that were so good and I ate two of them; it was worth it.

I have a playlist, its title is my favorite Bible verse: “If God is for us, who can be against us.” Spin Bout You by Drake is a good one, I also like Kirk Franklin, and some Lil Durk.

Arissa: For songs before the meet, I love listening to Gospel music. Kirk Franklin really gets me in the right mindset before I run. I don't really eat during the meet, I’m going to be honest. I eat a Clif bar, though, between events, it gives me energy. On the day of the meet, I’ll always eat yogurt, bread, and two sausages for breakfast. After the meet I don’t care and I’ll eat whatever.

When you’re not out setting personal bests on the track, what do you enjoy doing with your time?

Jordan: I like to read, I’ve been getting into different books. I’m reading a book about new technology and how it’s going to work with business. It’s really interesting. I’m also rereading the Bible. I enjoy playing video games, I’m trying to get into the new Harry Potter one. I like doing yoga, and I’m also a foodie, I love healthy snacks during the season. I also love cooking which is something I haven’t done up here yet.

Arissa: I enjoy dancing, I’m in Intersections. I like painting my nails, and also I’m in Athlete Bible Study. I really enjoy learning about God and the Bible.