Grad Student Writes about the Road to the Olympics

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Samantha McDonald

Samantha McDonald

USC sent 36 athletes to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, which began July 27th. As we celebrate their achievements,we must also recognize the hard work and perseverance that has carried them this far.

Samantha McDonald, who earned her Master of Arts degree in Broadcast Journalism from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism this past May has done just that. For her thesis, “Training for the Olympic Trials,” Samantha followed three USC Olympic hopefuls, Bryshon Nellum, Brysun Stately, and Reggie Wyatt, on their journeys to the Olympic Trials for track and field. Samantha takes a unique perspective in her piece, shifting focus from athletic prowess to the obstacles the athletes hurdled to reach their goals.

A runner in middle school, Samantha’s interest in track and field and the experience of competitive athletes peaked watching her brother become a member of the USC Track team as a pole vaulter, despite battling Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes. Further investigation revealed that many other USC team members have also overcome hardships to pursue their dreams.

In her broadcast journalism thesis, Samantha weaves a narrative of suffering and redemption, saluting not only the athletes themselves, but also the coach, team masseuse, and teammates who helped them along the way. She tells the story of Bryshon Nellum, a redshirt senior and 400 meter runner, who made a remarkable come-back after suffering three gunshot wounds to his legs in 2008. Bryshon earned his place on the US Olympic team at the Trials in Eugene, Oregon. Samantha also followed 2009 USC graduate, Brysun Stately, who fought to compete for a second time at the Olympic Trials in pole vaulting, and Sophomore Reggie Wyatt, who runs the 400 meter hurdles. Wyatt, a sophomore at USC, suffered a great personal loss with the death of his grandparents, but fought through to make the Olympic Trials. Although all three overcame obstacles to qualify for the Olympic Trials, a great accomplishment in the career of any athlete, only Nellum ultimately made the US Olympic team.

Samantha’s compelling narrative illuminates the dedication and grit in the face of struggle that so many competitive athletes exhibit. As we watch the best of the best compete on the world stage, Samantha’s thesis provides a glimpse into the athletes’ personal journeys, helping us to more fully empathize with their triumphs and disappointments.

To continue her excellent work in the field of broadcast journalism, Samantha has joined Fox 40 News in Binghamton, New York. She is enjoying watching the Trojan athletes compete on the Olympic stage, and hopes to continue supporting and reporting on such individuals in her budding professional career.