After Tavonte Mott stepped out of the airport, he was in shock and thought to himself, “What did I get myself into?”
Mott came to Ohio State from Nassau, Bahamas, and since then has had success as part of the men’s track and field team. But his success comes with a lot of adjustment.
Mott is a sophomore sprinter on the men’s track and field team who has had to overcome obstacles as an international student-athlete.
He started running track in ninth grade but after a death in his family, Mott has seen a lot of success in the track-and-field world.
Tevaughn Mott, Tavonte’s younger brother, wanted to run track but was unable to because of sickle cell disease.
Although his brother was unable to run, he would brag to all his friends about how Mott would be one of the best, Mott said.
Tevaughn died in 2013 at the age of 10.
“The last time I saw him, I basically made [the promise to be one of the best] to myself,” Mott said. “[His death] motivated me to be where I am today.”
Mott has run on eight different national teams for the Bahamas, which has taken him to track meets in China, Colombia and London.
After a visit to Ohio State, Mott said it felt like a home away from home, and that track and field assistant coach Joel Brown reminded him of his coach from the Bahamas.
“Recruiting internationally is a bit different than here in the U.S. because in an international kid, you have to look for kids at a certain kind of level who can come in and contribute to the team earlier in their career,” Brown said. “But the transition sometimes doesn’t happen that way, and for [Mott] the transition was a big adjustment.”
Mott has traveled alone many times before, but he said the time he traveled to Ohio State he felt excited, nervous and scared.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Mott said.
The 85-degree weather is one of the things Mott vividly remembers as he was preparing to leave Nassau.
He came to Ohio State in January 2018, the middle of winter in Ohio when most students were starting their second semesters.
“He’s coming to a place where it’s already cold. There may have been some snow on the ground, and it’s gray here during that time of the year,” Brown said.
The weather was one thing that made the transition difficult for Mott, and after three months at Ohio State, Mott was homesick.
“I couldn’t sleep; I just wanted to go home,” Mott said. “I didn’t want to be here anymore.”
Mott said the first couple of months at Ohio State were mentally draining, and he felt like he was alone.
“Sometimes you just feel like there is no one who can relate to you,” Mott said.
Although the first couple of months were tough for Mott, he finally found one thing that was refreshing: a fellow international athlete on the track and field team.
Bliss Soleyn, a senior sprinter, is the only other international athlete on the team.
Soleyn said that being from St. John’s, Antigua, and Mott being from Nassau, Bahamas, made it easy to relate to each other.
“It’s pretty cool having him around, having that one person that I can have that downtime and talk in my natural accent [with], and he fully understands,” Soleyn said.
Mott said he has enjoyed traveling to different states and building friendships with his teammates.
But after a year at Ohio State, Mott said there are still times when he misses home and wishes he was back in the warm weather.
“I wouldn’t say the transition was the smoothest of transitions, but with some perseverance as a young person, he was able to get himself together, and now he’s transitioning well,” Brown said.