Highlighting Lincoln’s Black athletes

Athletes+%28from+left+to+right%2C+top+to+bottom%29%3A+Jasmine+Sells%2C+Elijah+McLeod-Ali%2C+Serifya+Andersen%2C+Bianca+Eddy%2C+Ja%E2%80%99Niah+Casey+and+Ella+Andoh.+These+are+just+some+of+Lincoln%E2%80%99s+incredible+past+and+present+Black+athletes.

Skylar Debose

Athletes (from left to right, top to bottom): Jasmine Sells, Elijah McLeod-Ali, Serifya Andersen, Bianca Eddy, Ja’Niah Casey and Ella Andoh. These are just some of Lincoln’s incredible past and present Black athletes.

Skylar DeBose

In the present and throughout its history, many incredible Black athletes have attended Lincoln. In honor of Black History Month, I wanted to highlight some prominent Black athletes that currently or previously attended Lincoln. 

 

Bianca Eddy (Class of 2007; track & field) 

Lincoln alum Bianca Eddy (maiden name Mathabane) describes sports as “definitely a part of my DNA.” Being part of an athletic family helped make sports part of her everyday life, as she grew up trying soccer, basketball and snowboarding. In seventh grade, Eddy was introduced to track & field and became determined to perfect her hurdling technique. 

Eddy’s many coaches, including former Lincoln track & field coach Fernanado Fantroy, helped her reach her goals and strengthen her love for hurdles. 

“[Fantroy’s] dedication to the craft rubs off on his athletes,” Eddy said. 

As Eddy continued to focus on practice, technique and precision, she became dedicated to the sport. Her commitment to track & field led to continuous success. Eddy was named the Portland Interscholastic League (PIL) and State Champion three years in a row in both the 100 and 300 meter hurdles. 

“It was a golden time,” she said. 

This success was no easy feat. Eddy described a variety of strategies she used to keep her motivated throughout high school, such as consistency, confidence, supportive peers and coaches, feedback, healthy diet, positive mindset, time off, setting plans and seeing the results. These strategies helped her to push through and succeed. 

“Feeling like I was in control of my track career really helped me focus on what I needed to do to be successful,” Eddy said. 

Eddy’s exceptional success in high school opened up the door for a new opportunity: Princeton University. Eddy continued to pursue her passion for hurdles at Princeton and competed there for four years, while majoring in psychology. She excelled in college, not only with hurdles, but also in her social and personal life. 

“[My teammates] really held me accountable during college in working hard, but also in all areas… like knowing when to have fun and lay back and watch movies and just hang out like a kid should,” she said. 

Eddy met her husband at Princeton University. Since graduating college, the two have continued to build a life and future together. Eddy is currently a lawyer for a firm in Indianapolis, while her husband is a professor at Purdue University. In 2020, they had their first child, and they continue to focus on their futures and family. 

 

Ella Andoh (Class of 2019; track & field, soccer)

For Ella Andoh, who graduated from Lincoln in 2019, sports had a big impact on her high school experience.

 “I really couldn’t imagine not playing a sport in high school,” she said. 

Andoh focused on track & field and soccer for three years while at Lincoln. What stood out to her most about the sports was the competitiveness, fitness and team bonding. 

“I met some of my closest friends through both of those sports,” she said. “It was a great time.”  

Unfortunately, in the fall of her senior year, Andoh experienced a major setback. On senior night of her last high school soccer game, Andoh tore her ACL. 

Andoh’s injury prevented her from running during her senior track & field season. However, with the help of teammates, coaches and family, Andoh was able to make the most out of it, learning life lessons. 

“Stuff in life doesn’t always go your way, but it will always work out in the end,” Andoh said. 

Although there were setbacks that impaired Andoh’s high school sports experiences, there are also memories that she continues to hold close. 

“In the quarterfinal, we won 2-1 at Cleveland, and it was freezing cold and I couldn’t feel anything… but it was a crazy game of soccer and so much fun,” she said when describing her fondest high school soccer memory.  

When asked about her finest memory of high school track & field, Andoh had one in particular that stood out over the rest.

“It was a weird year where there were three heats for the [4×100 meter relays], and technically we were in the slowest heat, but we ran faster than all the teams in our heat and in the second heat as well,” she said. “We did really, really well.” 

Since graduating high school, Andoh has branched out and continued to make new memories. She currently lives in southern California and attends the University of Redlands, and recently studied abroad for a semester in Europe. Andoh visited Austria, Czechia, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Malta while abroad. 

“I couldn’t hype [traveling] up enough. It was an amazing time, I met so many amazing people… saw so many amazing things,” she said. “If anyone has the opportunity to travel, study abroad, or go somewhere else I think they should 100% take it. It was so much fun.”   

 

Ja’Niah Casey (Class of 2022; volleyball) 

Senior Ja’niah Casey has been dedicated to volleyball since her freshman year. 

“From the beginning of my freshman year, it allowed me to come out of my shell—to open up [and] make friends,” Casey said. 

Through volleyball, Casey developed many strong relationships with coaches and teammates. 

“I learned how your teammates can become like a sisterhood,” she said. “I also grew closer to every coach because they saw so much potential in me.”

One coach in particular has had a lasting impact on Casey. Lincoln’s current head coach, Shailah Ricketts, has been coaching at Lincoln for three years, and the impact she has had on players like Casey is substantial. 

“If I could dedicate anything to her, [I would],” Casey said. 

Going to a predominantly white school can have a large impact on students of color, and playing a predominantly white sport can have similar harmful impacts. According to Zippa, white people make up 78% of volleyball players in the United States, while only 6.8% of players identify as Black or African-American. 

Although playing a predominantly white sport as a young Black woman has not been entirely easy for Casey, it continues to push her to be better. 

“Overall, because I am a different skin color, it pushed me to prove other people wrong and show that I can do what this person does,” Casey said. “I can be as great, as amazing as this person… it doesn’t matter what color I am.” 

As someone who has a passion for public speaking and is a competitive, hard-working athlete, Casey has a bright future ahead. She hopes to play volleyball in college; however, at the moment, her passion for public speaking is her top priority. 

 

Jasmine Sells (Class of 2021; volleyball, tennis) 

Lincoln alum Jasmine Sells played both volleyball and tennis all four years of high school, but falling in love with volleyball promoted her to do great things with the sport. 

The supportive yet competitive team environment contributed to Sells’ love for volleyball. 

“I love the team aspect of volleyball,” she said. “It’s one of those sports where you truly are your weakest link, so you really have to work together and look out for each other.” 

Even with individual accomplishments, such as winning PIL Player of the Year, Sells credits her team for helping her get to that point. 

“It’s such a team sport that the accomplishments of one person within the sport are the accomplishments between everyone, because you need each other to get there,” she said. 

For Sells, team communication has taught her valuable life lessons that she carries with her today. 

“I learned a lot of social dynamics, and how to have conversations with people in a way that’s productive, so that you’re getting what you need to get across without creating any tension or conflict,” she said. 

Along with life lessons, she said that the fond memories and strong bonds truly strengthened her love for the sport. 

“I loved the girls so much my senior year on the team… and all the time we would just spend goofing off and doing random things,” Sells said. 

Since graduating high school, Sells has gone on to play college volleyball at Washington University in St. Louis. 

Not only did Sells dedicate time and energy to volleyball so that she could continue playing the sport she loved at the collegiate level, but she also used it to help excel her academics. 

“I used volleyball as a way to get into the best school I could possibly get into,” she said. 

As a current freshman in college, Sells has had to find ways to adapt to the college environment. 

“The biggest thing that’s changed for me is having control of my own schedule,” she said. “Now I have to be a lot more attentive and more organized than I did in high school, because there’s such a big time commitment to the sport.” 

 

Elijah McLeod-Ali (Class of 2022; soccer) 

For senior Elijah McLeod-Ali, soccer has had a great impact on his high school experience. 

McLeod-Ali has played for the Lincoln men’s soccer team all four years, playing at the varsity level for three. He describes the competitive team atmosphere as being the key to what kept him motivated. 

“The competitive environment was a large part of it,” McLeod-Ali said. “It’s always been a strong program, and I enjoy being in that kind of environment.” 

Not only has competitiveness impacted McLeod-Ali’s sports experiences, but it has also served as a lesson which he carries through life. 

“The competitiveness that comes with any sport is a big lesson that I’ve picked up on from my time in high [school] sports,” he said. 

The core of a strong athletic program is often the strength of the coach. McLeod-Ali said head coach Pablo Dipascuale has helped lead the men’s soccer program to success. 

“Pablo has always been a very strong coach, [and] he is able to connect with a lot of players,” McLeod-Ali said.   

Out of the four years McLeod-Ali has played for Lincoln’s soccer team, a memory that sticks out to him is winning the Final Four Champions at the Park Tournament his junior year. 

“We played a final against some of the best teams at Providence Park and we ended up winning the whole thing,” he said. “It was really cool.” 

 

Serifya Andersen (Class of 2024; wrestling, soccer, track & field) 

Sophomore Serifya Andersen is an extremely versatile athlete who enjoys trying new things, which has led them to try three different high school sports. 

“It’s interesting to do new things and see how they’ll go and if I’ll like it,” they said. 

Wrestling is one of the sports that continues to bring Andersen joy, but what sticks out to them most is the individuality. 

“You don’t have to depend on other people, you only depend on yourself,” Andersen said. “When you’re wrestling, the only person you’re thinking about is you.” 

As a multi-sport athlete, Andersen has experienced the environment of both team-oriented and individual-focused sports. Unlike wrestling, soccer has provided more of a team experience than an individual experience. 

“It’s one of the sports I enjoy a lot because you’re on a team and teams are very supportive,” they said. 

Playing high school sports has allowed Andersen to find comfort outside of the academic aspects of school. 

“Doing high school sports has made me realize that it’s not all about the learning,” they said. “There’s space to have fun, make friends, learn new things and be yourself.” 

Finding community through the support of others is what fuels Andersen’s love for sports. 

“Making people happy and being there supporting other people and being able to be a part of something big [is what I love most about high school sports],” they said. 

Playing sports continues to bring joy into Andersen’s life. Sports have also taught them life lessons that can be carried throughout life. 

“[Something I’ve learned is that] making mistakes is a part of learning, and it’s not that you’re failing… you’re learning from the mistakes you make,” Andersen said. 

According to a Statista study for 2018-2019, about 8% of U.S. high school wrestlers were girls. 

Although wrestling is a predominantly male sport, Andersen wants to show other girls that they can do it too. 

“There’s not that many girls that wrestle, and it’s very uncommon for girls to wrestle,” they said. “I just want to show that girls can wrestle too, and it’s not just for boys.”