International Track and Field Student Athletes Feel at Home with UMO

International Track and Field Student Athletes Feel at Home with UMO


MOUNT OLIVE- Scattered amongst the campus of the University of Mount Olive, a group of athletes are living a long way from home. Not from the West Coast or the Midwest, but instead people from other sides of the world, representing the likes of Spain, Germany, Scotland, France and Australia.

There are currently 39 international, freshmen student-athletes on the various UMO Trojan  rosters, each individual choosing to take the plunge and move across the globe to pursue their aspiration of playing collegiate sports in America. Seven of the international student-athletes are competing on the UMO track and field team.

Paulena Kremling of Stuttgart Germany, Mireia Sune Galan of Barcelona, Spain, Erwan le Scouarnec of Grenoble, France, and Adam Craig of Edinburgh, Scotland were recruited by the Trojan track and field coaching staff to compete in cross-country and distance events. Guillermo Alcala of Marbella, Spain, Guillermo Matesanz of Madrid, Spain, and Ash Hicks of Adelaide, Australia were recruited to compete in sprinting events.

Under the direction of head coach Matthew van Lierop, the cross-country and track and field programs have proved to be one of the most competitive teams in Conference Carolinas. Both the men’s and women’s teams have gained conference championship wins, and numerous runners have made national championship appearances.  Having these accolades was a big seller for many of the international student-athletes.

“In Germany it’s very difficult to combine studying and running at universities,” explained Kremling, who is majoring in exercise science. “I heard of the great team spirit at UMO and I knew I would like to join such a successful team that shares the same passion of running as I do!”

Although they are far from home, these ambitious student athletes are already adjusting to their new American lifestyle and are excited to see what this year has in store for them.

Matesanz, a business management major, was drawn to UMO from the start of his recruiting process. “I chose to attend UMO because of the distinguished track team and the large number of international students here! I am so excited to live out the American experience,” smiled Matesanz. “Even though it can be tough to move to a new country, I haven’t been nervous! There are so many friendly mates and helpful professors here.”

For Le Scouarnec, studying in the United States is a dream come true. “I am from France, and studying in the U.S.A. has always been a dream of mine. UMO made that dream into a reality with the friendly community, very good runners, and academic opportunities.”

With the small-school atmosphere and friendly faculty and staff, the international students feel right at home on the UMO campus.

Craig, an exercise science major, noted, “Where I am from in Scotland is a very rural area, and my high school only had about a thousand students. So, although I’m in a different country, I don’t feel out of my comfort zone at all! It’s also helpful that the professors are very welcoming, and my team helped to settle me in and get accustomed to the campus.”

With the start of the semester well underway, the international students already feel comfortable in their classes. UMO provides the students with numerous resources to help them transition into American academics, including the Academic Resource Center, the Writing Center, and the freshman ADV course that helps students interact with fellow freshmen and the Mount Olive community.

“The resources at UMO are helping all the freshman, especially the new internationals. Professors show consideration to the students who have problems with the English language and guide them to help on campus,” explained Kremling.

These seven track and field athletes join 32 additional international freshmen students this year at the University of Mount Olive. Although they travelled from all different points on the globe, these freshmen are excited to come together at UMO and work towards academic and athletic excellence.

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, and in Smithfield at Johnston Community College.  For more information, visit

Left to right: Erwan Le Scouarne, Guillermo Pérez Matesanz, Ash Hicks, Mireia Sune Galan, Paulena Kremling, Adam Craig, and Guillermo Alcalá Rendón.