Misleading reports two months ago had Monroe track & field superstar Mimieux Land 100 percent heading to Florida — but not so, Land told The Herald on Thursday, as she picked Clemson over Florida and Albany State to continue her career. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — Who knew Mimieux Land was this mysterious?
Really, under all that talent, all that courage and all that perseverance and passion lives a young lady with a cool twist of intrigue, a devilish little mind that kept everyone in suspense — even her parents — until the 12th hour.
Finally, amid a packed house at the Monroe High School media center Thursday morning, Land told the world where she would be going to college, and she did it in style (did you expect anything less?).
The only thing missing was a drum roll.
“I will kill the mysterious suspense and choose a school,’’ she said, smiling.
Then she reached down where three baseball caps were sitting on a table, and put on the one from Clemson on her head. Her smile grew twice as big and 10 times brighter.
Clemson, not Florida, had landed Mimi.
The Florida baseball cap just sat there on the table, and you could almost hear the Gators growling all the way from Gainesville.
They had just lost one of, if not the most, talented young track & field stars in the nation.
Land, who owns state and national titles for soaring and leaping, had just jumped right through Florida’s hands and landed in Clemson’s lap, where the track & field program just got as whole lot better with her commitment.
Land is priceless, and every major track & field program in the nation wanted her. She has won three state titles in the high jump, two in the long jump and two in the triple jump, where she broke the Class AAA state record as a sophomore, and then broke her own state record last year.
She has won several high jump titles at the national level at the prestigious Golden South and Golden West meets, where she has faced the best in the nation while every college recruiter watched her, and last summer she qualified for the USA National Junior team. She also finished second in the high jump and long jump in the World Youth Trials.
To say she is one of the most prolific high school female athletes in the country is almost an understatement.
That’s what Florida lost and Clemson gained when Mimi slipped that Clemson cap on her head.
“I’ve known Florida since I was in fifth grade, but all roads kept leading me to Clemson’’ said Land, who owns seven individual state titles, and three relay team state titles at Monroe, where she has led the Lady Tornadoes to three consecutive Class AAA state titles. She is a two-time Herald Player of the Year in Track & Field, and she has been the top point-scorer in the Class AAA state meet for three years in a row.
Even though there were misleading reports from at least one local media outlet late last year that she would choose Florida, Land kept her options open and didn’t make her final decision until Wednesday night. She told The Herald earlier in the week it would be either Clemson or Florida, but when she was asked about her decision Tuesday, she just smiled and said: “The mystery hasn’t unfolded yet.”
She seemed to love the suspense.
“She didn’t even tell me,’’ said her father, Dan, a former football star in the NFL and at Albany State, where he now coaches defensive backs. “You want to see my surprised look?’’
Then he popped his eyes open in a look of shock and laughed.
It turns out Dan Land was the key that opened the door for Clemson — turns out it was an Oakland Raider thing.
“Yeah, that’s right,’’ Dan said. “It was a Raider thing.’’
He starred for the Raiders, a team that he has always been close with on and off the field, and two former Raiders — James Trapp and Chester McGlockton, both of whom played with him — made their pitch to bring Mimi to Clemson.
“When we made the visit to Clemson we ran into James Trapp,’’ said Mimi, who made her visits along with her father and mother, Theresa. “He’s an assistant football coach at Clemson, and he started telling me I needed to go to Clemson.
“Then about a week before Chester McGlockton passed (in November) he called my dad. He talked to my dad, and then he talked to me about going to Clemson.’’
Dan Land told his former teammates they were wasting their time.
“When Chester called me, he said your daughter needs to go to Clemson,’’ Dan Land recalled. “I told him, ‘She’s going to Florida.’ ”
In the end, Mimi made up her own mind.
And it wasn’t easy.
“It was crazy,’’ she said. “It was fun, and then it got to be nerve-racking, and then it was exciting, and then it went back to worrying. I was worried all this week. I didn’t want to make the wrong decision. But (on Wednesday night) I made my decision and it was thrilling. I was excited, and it was a load off of me to finally make the decision. I had to think about it a lot. On Monday, I was talking to the Florida coach and then Clemson called, and then Florida called back … It was crazy.’’
Mimi has a 3.6 GPA, plans to major in early childhood education and become a teacher, but she was the ultimate student on this ride. She had offers from everywhere and made visits to Clemson, Florida, the University of Miami and LSU. Auburn never gave up and was still calling this week, and even sent her a letter-of-intent with the hope she’d sign it.
“I learned so much,’’ Mimi said. “I would tell anyone going through the recruiting process that you have to open yourself up. Florida is all I’ve known since I was (10 years old), but Clemson just offered me more. I loved the study hall there and the way it’s set up for the students and coaches were like family. They were like aunts and uncles. It was just a wonderful feeling there. I just knew.’’
Mimi thanked everyone Thursday morning — her parents, coaches, teammates school and Paul Jones, her second father, who runs the Ruff Riders Track Club, where Mimi began her career years ago.
Jones simply said: “Thank the Lord for her. Thank the Lord for her parents. I’ve been around her all her life. She is such a competitor. She goes to national meets and she’s never worried or afraid, because she is looking to compete against the best. When it comes to athletics, she just puts it down.’’
It was a long road to Clemson, but Mimi was never alone, and she took a moment Thursday to reflect.
“The ultimate decision was not mine alone, but God’s,’’ she said.
There was even a long-standing joke along the way.
“The joke in the family was if you can’t make up your mind you can always go to Albany State,’’ said Mimi, who included an ASU baseball cap that sat right between the Florida and Clemson caps. It was out of respect for her father, and after she picked Clemson, she put the ASU cap on her father’s head.
It’s a close family, and it has always shown over the years. They embraced after the decision was made Thursday.
Dan, however, said he stayed out of the decision.
“With those schools, you can’t go wrong,’’ he said. “We just let her make her decision, and I told her I will support your decision.’’
Theresa was secretly pulling for Clemson, and Mimi knew it.
“My mother loved Clemson,’’ she said. “She took so many pictures on that trip.’’
Theresa said she liked the closeness of the coaches, the family feeling and everything about Clemson.
And where was this one moment that really got to her.
“We were all at the (North Carolina State) football game together, the coaches and all the other recruits who were there that weekend,’’ she said. “After the game we were getting ready to eat and the (head track) coach (Lawene Johnson) said let’s have Mimi say grace. I’ll never forget that.’’
After Thursday’s signing, you can bet at Clemson the track coaches are all saying a collective Amen.