McLean’s strong performances as a jumper impressed many on the team, but there is more to McLean than just the gold, silver and occasional bronze medals that he wins in Princeton’s name. His strong Jamaican influences, along with his academic and social life, are just as intriguing as his athletic career.
Part of McLean’s Caribbean background is expressed in his extracurricular activities. While he is not a member of any clubs, he is a musician in the student band Sensemaya, contributing not with his leaping legs but with his nimble hands and fingers.
“[It’s an] incredible afro-beat band with a very diverse group of musicians,” McLean said of the 12-member band.
He originally got involved after meeting Sensemaya band leader Mark Nagy ’11 at a group session of the Modern Improvisational Music Association at Princeton.
“They did a thing here on campus and he sounded pretty good, so I invited him to come play,” Nagy explained.
McLean plays various forms of percussion for the group including the djembe, conga, clave and cowbell, among others, and the rest of the band is happy to have him around.
“He always shows up to rehearsal with a big smile and ready to jam,” Nagy said of the freshman. “He lets loose when he’s up on stage and has a good time.”
His post-game activities include jamming to afro-beats, and his pre-meet warmup music is just as unique. Before jumping in track meets, McLean listens to his game-day playlist, consisting of gospel and a form of popular Jamaican music known as dancehall. To supplement the pump-up music, McLean dances and sings before he competes.
“I am always doing a small dance or talking to myself aloud,” he said of his pre-match routines. “It keeps me calm and ensures that I don’t get too nervous.”
In his leisure time, though, he prefers listening to more mainstream music by artists such as Drake and Kanye West.
McLean’s musical creativity exhibits itself in other ways, too. He enjoys composing and reciting dub poetry, a form of performance art that consists of spoken word over reggae rhythms.
“[It’s] the Caribbean form of slam poetry,” McLean explained.
His Jamaican roots impact more than just his musical interests and spread into his academic life, where he is interested in urban studies and environmental engineering.
“As a citizen of a third-world country, I am eager to learn skills and gain qualifications to improve my country and countries like mine,” McLean said.
Despite the wealth of food in his nearby Wilcox Dining Hall, McLean likely won’t find his favorite dish in the buffet line. That’s because he is partial to ackee and saltfish, a Jamaican specialty composed of cod, ackee, onions and an assortment of additional vegetables and spices.
McLean is a man always on the move and this extends to his campus study habits.
“I try to study in various places,” he said. “It all depends on how convenient a place is to me at a certain time.”
The freshman jumper has already achieved regional and national acclaim. He is ranked third in the Mid-Atlantic region in the long jump and second in the triple jump, placing 34th in the nation in the latter event with a best of 15.49 meters.
While he may be hard to keep still, the best place to find him would be at the Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet on Feb. 12 in New Haven. McLean will then be jumping the week after in the Princeton Invitational in Jadwin Gymnasium. Wherever he is seen, he is sure to be marching, and jumping, to the beat of his own drum.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2011/02/10/27535/