Press "Enter" to skip to content

Star freshman ushers in new era for Bradley cross country

Jayde Rosslee finished first at the Bradley Intercollegiate. Photo courtesy of Bradley Athletics.

South African freshman Jayde Rosslee has been a standout performer for the Bradley men’s cross country team. Rosslee placed first in his only two races of the season thus far and already holds the Bradley men’s cross country record for the fifth-fastest 8K time.

Before Bradley

The construction management major hails from Alberton, a suburb of Johannesburg populated with over 100,000 people. Off the track, Rosslee enjoys listening to music, hanging out with his teammates and exploring the campus.

Rosslee attended Helpmekaar Kollege, where he excelled in cross country and track and field. In February 2023, Team South Africa selected Rosslee to compete at the Junior World Cross Country Championships.

“It was surreal at that point,” Rosslee said. “Being able to represent my country was an out-of-body experience.”

In his first time representing his home country, he recorded eight top-five finishes, highlighted by a first-place finish in the 500M event at the U/20 Championships. After his performance, Rosslee fielded many offers, but former Braves head coach Darren Gauson convinced him to join Bradley’s program.

“I wasn’t actually planning on coming to the U.S.,” Rosslee said. “After competing at the World Championships, I had a lot of offers. [Gauson] told me about Bradley and the team he was building. The prospect of joining the team enticed and motivated me to be here.”

No man’s land

In his time at Bradley, Gauson left a legacy of excellence. He established Bradley as the premier cross country and track and field team in the Missouri Valley Conference, winning 10 conference titles and 10 Coach of the Year awards.

Ultimately, Gauson chose to leave Bradley and become the head coach at New Mexico before this season, which left Rosslee in no man’s land. Like most recruits, Rosslee formed a relationship with Gauson, so the coaching change was an adjustment.

“The adjustment was quite hard,” Rosslee said. “I like being connected to a coach before committing. I like to get to know them, I like them to get to know me [and] I want a coach that knows who I am, how I train and how I run.”

Bradley announced the hiring of head coach Andrew Carlson in July 2023 and Rosslee’s skepticism was put to bed.

“I was hesitant at that time, [but] as soon as coach Carlson was announced, I was able to speak to him and see his resume,” Rosslee said. “He’s been to places I would like to be in a couple of years. I definitely changed my mind really fast.

Since his arrival, his coaches have raved about his work ethic and drive.

“It has been great to work with and build a coach-athlete relationship with Jayde,” Carlson said. “Jayde wants to be a great athlete and I want to help him be a great athlete. Despite not working together through the recruiting process, I think we have built trust just on that simple idea.”

Runners Michael Rebello and Jayde Rosslee take on the course. Photo courtesy of Bradley Athletics

A long way from home

As any parents would be, Rosslee’s mom and dad were skeptical about sending their son across the world alone, but frequent video calls and WhatsApp messages have kept the family close.

“I think I’ve been coping with homesickness quite fine,” Rosslee said. “I’ve been in close contact with my family, so it doesn’t feel that far.”

“In the beginning, my father wasn’t too fond of the idea. Once he spoke with coach Carlson, he said, ‘there’s no way you can’t go,’” Rosslee added. “He was hesitant because we are very family-oriented. I’ve never been away for more than two weeks.”

Since arriving at Bradley, Rosslee has been enjoying himself, but moving nearly 9,000 miles away from home has come with adjustments.

“Back home, it was a much different environment,” Rosslee said. “It was hard being a runner at that point. You can only train at certain times of the day [and] only in certain areas do you feel safe while running. Here, I can run outside and run with the team. Back home, I never had that team aspect.”

Despite the challenges of his new environment, the standout freshman finished 20th at the World Cross Country Championships back in February. With a finish of that magnitude, outside expectations are bound to come. Rosslee himself did not know what to expect.

“I came here without many expectations,” Rosslee said. “The cross country scene back home is not as competitive. The competition is higher here, and people are much better runners. Being 20th in the world places a lot of pressure on me, but I think I’ve been doing well and hope to keep it up for the rest of the season.”

Copyright © 2023, The Scout, Bradley University. All rights reserved.
The Scout is published by members of the student body of Bradley University. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the University.