Versatile. Zealous. Driven. These are just a few words to describe Laura Darcey’s dynamic career as a multi-athlete for the women’s track and field team. In her four years of competing, Laura has broken school records, set NCAA Division III historic rankings, and was recently named the USTFCCCA National Women’s Field Athlete of the Year. However, Darcey’s mentality toward the sport is perhaps her greatest attribute. She constantly seeks new challenges and pushes herself toward new horizons.
Hailing from England, Darcey did not have a traditional start to her track and field career. When she was 11, she won a 100-meter dash at her school’s Sports Day. This prompted her initial interest in track, leading Darcey to joining the Kingston Running Club in London. She trained with the club throughout her youth, competing in any event her team needed. Darcey explains, “I meandered around and tried different events. I started off doing anything that my team needed. I sprinted for a while and also ran the 800-meter race. Multi events turned out to be the best fit.”
Darcey’s career continued when she hit her growth spurt at 16 and began to excel in track and field events. Seeking university options that would allow her to continue track, Darcey looked at colleges in the United States. She looked at Columbia and UChicago before settling on UChicago. Darcey felt an initial sense of welcome and comfort at her recruitment visit to UChicago. Upon meeting the coaches and athletes, she was charmed by the excitement and energy of the team. “I felt that I had a ready family coming onto the campus, which I strongly wanted as I was coming from England to UChicago. This feeling was true and I’ve found track to be a home away from home,” Darcey reflected.
Laura Darcey defines versatility. She competes in multi events (pentathlon and heptathlon) for both her indoor and outdoor seasons. Her athleticism is boundless as she welcomes any challenge in sprinting, mid-distance, jumping and throwing events. For the indoor season, Darcey competes in five events in a single day: the 60-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, long jump, and the 800-meter dash. For the outdoor season, Darcey competes in the heptathlon, adding the 200-meter sprint, 100-meter hurdles, and javelin throw to her pentathlon events. Her training is time-consuming and multivariate, seeing as Darcey is often the last person to leave the track. She juggles all these events to keep her skills at competition levels. Darcey noted, “My strength is in my versatility. Even if it is harder, I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge. I need a challenge and it is fun to face it all.”
Although she is a multifaceted athlete, Darcey holds a distinct fondness for jumping. She had an initial gift for high jumping starting in high school, but has worked vigorously to master her long jumping since coming to UChicago. Nationally, she is the fourth-ranked high jumper in Division III, and the seventh-ranked long jumper. Darcey described warmly, “High jumping will always have a special place for me. When it goes right, it feels like the closest I’ll ever come to flying.”
While Darcey is quite familiar with podium placings and high rankings, she ultimately celebrates the little things about track. When asked about favorite experiences, Darcey fondly recalled drives to national meets with teammates. She holds the opportunity to really get to know those teammates and sing karaoke renditions of *Africa* and *Circle of Life* on the road as cherished memories. She reminisced about team traditions, speaking warmly about huddles before and after meets with coaches and teammates. “The big things seem to fade away looking back on the last four years,” Darcey revealed.
Despite not identifying with a specific sub-team of track and field, Darcey is one of the most integrated members of the overall team. While she was shy at the start of her career, she was introduced to the other multi-athlete for the women’s team, Olivia Cattau (S.B. ’18), who guided Darcey, introducing her to other teammates. Moreover, as a multi-athlete, Darcey trained with almost every sub-team of track and field, throwing with the throwers, jumping with the jumpers and running with the mid-distance runners.
Darcey’s dynamism is recognized and praised by her teammates and coaches. Her primary coach Justin McQuality noted, “I would describe Laura as a rare athlete. She has the ability to impact a team both by her leadership influence and her performance. Her strengths as an athlete are her explosiveness and body awareness. Her strengths as a leader come from her ability to be both very forward and frank, but also compassionate and vulnerable when she needs to be as well.”
Darcey went into her senior year hungry for a new challenge. Success in previous years did not stop Darcey from dreaming of new horizons. She had aspirations of being the best in the country in her senior year. “I’ve learned that if I put my heart to something, I can achieve it. This mentality will follow me through the rest of my life,” Darcey explained. However, the night before nationals she was informed the meet was cancelled and her college track career was cut short due to the growing COVID-19 pandemic.
Although her indoor and spring seasons fell short of her initial goal, Darcey continues to aspire for more. As a dedicated student, studying both public policy and human rights, Darcey has professional plans to attend graduate school in some capacity. She also plans to return to London and compete for a year to see what she can do.
“I have unfinished business,” Darcey concluded, looking to the horizons to once again challenge herself in track and field.