Spotlight on Former Athlete: Twilet Malcolm Alexander - Track & Field 1991-93
Twilet Alexander runs race of her life
By Bruce Brown
Anyone who knew Twilet Malcolm knew what kind of competitor she was.
Her opponents certainly knew, as they saw her race ahead in sprints and jumps for USL's Ragin' Cajun women's track and field program in the 1990's.
Teammates knew that if they didn't meet her standards, they would hear about it.
So they're not surprised to know the Jamaican native is fighting fiercely against cancer later in life.
She and husband Patrice Alexander, a former Cajun linebacker, were able to attend UL's track and field reunion in the spring. But she had an attack while in town that sent them scurrying back to Houston.
“Ex teammates were getting their pictures taken with her,” said UL assistant coach Tommy Badon. “They wanted to be around her.
“But she had to be rushed to the hospital. The cancer had perforated her colon. They found it in time, though, and two weeks later they started chemo.”
It''s always stunning to find a world-class athlete in ill health, and make no mistake, Twilet was world class.
Badon recruited her out of junior college and she proceeded to re-write the record book while lifting the Cajun women's program to greatness by talent and force of will.
Alexander was an All-American in 1993 both indoors (6.79 55 meters) and outdoors (11.17 100) when she led the Cajun women to Sun Belt Conference titles in both arenas.
Outdoors in 1993, she won the 100 in 11.17, the 200 in 22.93, the long jump (20-10.75) and ran on winning 4x100 (48.91) and 4x400 (3:46.10) relays, a virtual repeat of a 1991 showing in the American South Conference before there was enough talent around her to result in a team crown.
An Olympian in the 4x100 for her native Jamaica at the 1992 Barcelona Games, Alexander was a force of nature.
Keisha Rideau was one who felt that force on a daily basis as diminutive sprinter Keisha Ray Owens was taken under Alexander's wing.
“Twilet was very strong, both physically and mentally,” Rideau said. “She squatted more weight than some of the guys. She worked towards a PR (personal record) every time she got on the track.
“Many times fear hindered me from desiring success. However, she made me feel as though I was given a talent and that I belonged on the collegiate level and on the (winner's) podium.
“My sophomore year, I don't think I won any races but it was my best year personally because of her.”
Her presence was also apparent to others on the team.
“Twilet was physicaly the strongest girl that I had ever been around in my life,” said Carencro basketball coach Chris Kovatch, a javelin thrower for the Cajuns of the 1990's.
“My freshman year, I threw at Southeastern and I remember watching her blaze by the competition at every meet that we were at together. I transferred to USL the next fall and I distinctly remember seeing her for the first day in the weight room and watching her power clean more than any girl I'd ever seen. Heck, what she was lifting was comparable to some guys.
“Although on the other end of the track at practice, you could see and hear how she would battle and grind to be the best. She worked like a thoroughbred each day.
“Whether as a high school athlete, college athlete or coaching high school for over 20 years now, she's probably one of the fiercest competitors I've ever been around in my life.”
“She was primarily a jumper, and a really good jumper, when I met her,” Badon said. “But she wanted to be a sprinter. I told her about a place (USL) where she could be what she wanted to be. I was in the right place at the right time.
“I liked her competitive attitude. It meant so much to her to be the best she
could be. Our women's program had just gotten started in 1985, and we weren't very good yet. But with her in the front end, we built it into a conference power.
“She had the heart, soul and attitude of a champion. She wanted to win. The bigger the meet, the better she was. At the conference meet, she was bound and determined to win.”
Alexander, who scored a staggering 38 points at the SBC Indoors, even ran events she didn't like to further the cause.
“Twilet didn't like the 400 meters, but she ran on the 4x400 to help the team,” Badon said.
If the best athlete in school history is willing to do that, shouldn't others want to give their all?
“She had that spark, whatever you want to call it,” said Badon, who often visits Alexander in Houston.
Alexander is a deserving member of the Ragin' Cajuns Athletic Hall of Fame, the first track and field woman inducted and a pioneer on the level of basketball's Kim Perrot and softball's Kyla Hall Holas and Stefni Whitton Lotief.
“She was talented, but it was really her attitude that made her great,” Badon said. “She definitely led by example. She was going to be good, and she expected everyone aroun her to work hard.
“Twilet didn't mind speaking her mind if she felt someone needed to hear it.”
“Sometimes we thought she was coach Badon's assistant because she was always telling us what to do,” Rideau said with a laugh. “She demanded excellence from everyone at practice.
“She fussed, but we knew it came from a good place.”
Now, some 25 years later, Alexander is facing the greatest challenge of her life with typical ferocity.
“At one point a few years ago, Twilet had gotten up to 198 pounds,” Badon said, “and she said I'm never going to weigh 200. So she started walking, a quarter mile at first, then a half mile. Eventually she got to the point that she was competing in high-end fitness competitions.
“She weighed 132 pounds and, like my wife Susan says, she didn't have six-pack abs, she had a 12-pack. That's probably what kept her alive once they discovered cancer. She was so fit.”
Fans and teammates are keeping in touch with Alexander via Facebook, encouraging the greatest athlete in UL women's history to keep fighting. There is greatness in tenacity.
“What I admire most is her strength – the strength to accept her illness and not let it defeat her,” Rideau said. “It will not stop her from being who she is – fearless.”
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Twilet Malcolm Alexander flanked by Tommy and Susan Badon at the recent Track & Field Reunion.