As a sprinter, Ashanti McFarland is used to racing against the clock in events that are finished within a blink of the eye. The difference between first and second place is often a hundredth of a second.
The recruiting saga of the recent Merced High School graduate was more like a marathon with plenty of twists and turns. On Tuesday afternoon, McFarland finally crossed the finish line.
After weeks of stressful, sleepless nights, McFarland decided on a college to continue his track career. On Tuesday, he signed a national letter of intent with Fresno Pacific in front of family and friends at the university’s Merced campus.
“It means a lot because I’ve worked so hard and now I know where I’m going,” McFarland said. “There’s been ups and downs along the way. Some failed options. But now to know where I’m going and how much money I’m getting feels great.”
McFarland will receive a partial athletic scholarship for $7,000 and a $5,000 academic scholarship. He also earned smaller miscellaneous scholarships.
“Three weeks ago, I didn’t know where I was going,” McFarland said. “It was very hectic and scary, because I’ve always wanted to run track in college. There were times I didn’t know if I would be able to go to college.
“But I’ve been in contact with the Fresno Pacific coaches. My pastor (Rod Cochran) went there and he’s helped put me in contact with them.”
McFarland grew up dreaming of running at USC. When that wasn’t an option, he turned his attention to UC Davis, but found out recently he was unable to gain admission.
That left him scrambling.
“It was very stressful for him,” said his mother, Sonia. “There were a lot of decisions to be made. A lot of ups and downs. Some of his plans that he wanted to do didn’t happen. I’m just glad everything worked out.
“He just wanted to run. I’m glad he’s able to do that and get a good education. He’s not going to be able to run forever, so getting a good education it a good thing.”
McFarland finished high school with a 3.10 GPA, which helped keep his options open when other doors closed. His ability and determination on the track also had to attract interest from college coaches.
At the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters meet, McFarland finished fourth in the 200-meter dash in 21.90 seconds. He won Central California Conference titles in the 100 (10.99) and 200 (22.39) and finished third in both events at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I meet with times of 10.95 in the 100 and 22.00 in the 200.
McFarland feels Fresno Pacific is the right place to get the training he needs to become a professional track athlete.
“It’s a good fit for me,” said McFarland, who plans to major in kinesiology. “Their coaching staff is well planned out. They have a coach (Robert Foster) who competed in the Olympics twice for Jamaica. They have a small team compared to other colleges and a small sprint team, which means I’ll get a lot of personal training.
“Fresno Pacific is also a small school, so there will be less distractions.”
McFarland is relieved to finally sign his name to the paper and begin his collegiate career.
“I was worried but not too worried because I always feel God has a plan for you,” McFarland said. “It was a stressful for a couple weeks because I didn’t know where I was going to, and school is starting soon. But now that I know where I’m going to run in college, I feel really blessed.”