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The Murray State News

How teams become family at Murray State

Fans get seated for the Racer’s 2022 family weekend game.

Athletics are a big part of Murray State University. Athletes from all over the world come to compete in sports like track, basketball and football, to name a few.

But many Murray State athletes aren’t from the area, making it difficult for their families to come in for the weekend, or at all for that matter.

Athletes like junior thrower Alexis Meloche come from other countries. Meloche hails from LaSalle, Ontario, Canada. While that’s just a 10-hour drive from Murray, it’s still difficult for her parents to visit, leading to plenty of home sickness.

“My freshman year, moving away from my family for the first time, was really hard,” Meloche said. “It was during COVID, so we had a bunch of restrictions we had to go through just to get here, so I could only have one parent help move me here. It’s gotten easier now that I’m here. They can come see me whenever they want, and I can do the same.”

Other players like basketball junior guard JaCobi Wood are from a somewhat local area but still far enough away that their families can’t always be here to support their kids. Wood, who transferred to Murray State from Belmont, shared a similar feeling with Meloche about the distance from his family. Wood’s hometown of Cleveland, Tennessee, is nearly four and a half hours away. 

“I was definitely homesick my freshman year of college,” Wood said. “Those times when my family comes to games, it’s great. I love getting to play in front of my family. It’s fun.”

In their time since coming to Murray State, both Meloche and Wood have said how much the University has become a home away from home and credit their teams and coaches for making that possible. Meloche related to her teammates in how many of them come from all over the world and how special it has been to have those relationships.

“I love my team,” Meloche said. “This is the first team I’ve been on that has really felt like a family and that I’m comfortable with. We’ve got people from all over the world. So making these relationships with teammates from different areas is really cool because after I’m done with University and a teammate gets married, I can go wherever and be there for them… It’s really cool that I get to have these experiences with these teammates from everywhere.”

Meloche said some of her coaches feel like her parents in a way.

“I love my coaches,” Meloche said. “My head coach, Adam Kiesler, is my personal coach, so I’m with him everyday lifting, training and [at] meetings. He reminds me a lot of my dad. They have the same personality, so he and I have a really good connection now. My other coach, Kelsey Riggins, is like a mother to me. They’re like parent figures to me here on campus, so I can go to them for anything that I need.”

Riggins, an assistant coach for both cross country and track and field, discussed the relationships built among the teams and how the coaches try to make it feel like home for the athletes.

“What we try to do is make the kids as comfortable as they can be,” Riggins said. “We understand that when you come to college… you’re leaving your family and your support system. I tell people a lot that as a coach, about 20% of what I do is coaching, and the rest of it is like people management. So working with the kids to make sure they’re transitioning in life, while also helping them in school, or if they need help in their dorms or if their tires go flat. So we’re just trying to be a support system for them.”

The idea of having family-like teams at Murray State has become somewhat of a recruiting tool. Wood said it was one of the reasons he wanted to transfer to Murray State when he left Belmont in 2022.

“It just made sense to come here, with the culture and coaches,” Wood said. “I saw how much trust Coach Prohm had in me…  being myself and also all the love and camaraderie they have. Everyone is together, not just the coaches, but the manager and the whole community. It was something I couldn’t pass up on.”

Riggins said the community and culture that gets built with these teams is something the coaches want all of the students they recruit to feel when they come to Murray State.

“Culture is everything,” Riggins said. “We’ve learned here that we would rather bring in the kid that fits best with our culture than bring in someone that wouldn’t fit into that atmosphere. Cross country and track and field can be very individual, but we’re a very team-based program… We want to have kids in the program that want to be part of the family, they want to be close-knit, want to be close with their teammates. We want kids like that rather than bringing in kids that are lone wolves.”

Riggins added one last thing, speaking for all the coaches at Murray State about what it means to be a Racer.

“The biggest thing for us is that we just accept the kids for who they are,” Riggins said. “Everybody has their own things, and we try to encourage our program to grow into the best versions of themselves they can be. We try to foster the ‘respect your teammates, let people be who they are,’ and we’ve found that it’s built some of the strongest friendships I’ve seen at any school that I’ve been at.”


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About the Contributor
Jakob Milani
Jakob Milani, Sports Editor
Jakob Milani is all about sports. He joined the staff of The Murray State News in 2020 as a sports writer, assigned to women's basketball, and by fall 2021 was named Sports Editor. He is a dedicated lover of all things Chicago Cubs and Chicago Bears related, and loves to talk about all things sports. He is a co-host of "The Iron Grid" podcast with fellow sports writer Ronan Summers, and only ever watches ESPN in his down time. Aside from sports, Jakob also has a passion for music and baking. His favorite artists include Nirvana, Travis Scott, and Queen. His favorite item to bake is cheesecake.

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