Between lacing up his cleats for a race and spending late nights studying in Hillman, sophomore track athlete Dante Watson has a few other responsibilities: mediating disputes, doing rounds on dorm floors and being a good listener.
In addition to being an athlete and a full-time student studying communication, Watson is a resident assistant on the fifth floor of Sutherland Hall East. And though he is probably one of the busiest students on campus, that didn’t stop him from being voted best RA on campus in The Pitt News’ “Best Of” poll.
“Last semester, there were days when I would have lifting at 7:30, then right after lifting I would have class at 10 until 2,” Watson said. “Then I would have practice from about 2:45 until 5:30, and then mandatory study hours, and then whatever RA duties or staff meetings that came after that.”
On the track team, Watson runs in the 400- and 800-meter events, as well as the 4x400m relay. Last indoor season, he posted Pitt’s top performance in the 800m with a time of 1:53.13. This indoor season, Watson experimented with the 600m for the first time — and neared the Pitt record time of 1:18.26, finishing just 0.5 seconds behind.
Watson said he intends to break the record at one of Pitt’s upcoming indoor meets.
His athletic abilities are not limited to just the track, though. At North Penn High School, Watson played a significant role as cornerback and wide receiver on one of Pennsylvania’s top high school football teams during his senior year.
East Stroudsburg University actively recruited Watson to the point that he committed for football, but eventually changed his mind and decided to take Pitt’s offer to join the track team.
Since coming to Oakland, Watson has been just as active off the track as he is on it. Watson is enrolled in a 16-credit course load for the semester. And in his role as a RA, Watson said the first-year students on his floor make his job easy, for the most part.
“There’s not too many problems at all,” Watson said. “People do a good job of self-policing and taking accountability for themselves. I put the focus on interaction, so anyone knows that if they do have a problem, they can come to me.”
On floor five, the residents have taken a liking to Watson’s personality and way of dealing with problems on the floor, as evidenced by his “Best Of” win.
“I like that he’s laid-back, but also enforces the rules when they need to be enforced,” Amanda Parent, one of the first-year students on Watson’s floor, said. “Anytime I had problems, he was able to help, which was nice.”
It may seem challenging to be available to floor residents while balancing so much outside of being an RA — but Watson makes it work.
“Dante is always there for us, whether we need help in school, our social lives or just someone to talk to,” fellow fifth-floor member Chris Cappas said. “He’s knocked on all our doors and even ordered pizza for our entire floor just to get to know all of us better.”
Even though Watson is able to handle all of his responsibilities most of the time, his schedule can be overwhelming.
There are the assigned hours he must patrol each floor on the building, plus whatever shifts he picks up. There are also weekly RA staff meetings that often run from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Taking all that into account, Watson has dealt with some late nights.
“There were some days where I’d get like 3-4 hours of sleep after all that,” Watson said.
The lack of rest originally took a toll on Watson’s body, he said, to the point where he would often be both physically and mentally exhausted. But he became acclimated to the workload, and revamped his class schedule for this semester to allow for a decent night’s sleep.
Above all, Watson has made room — and sacrificed rest — for the two things he cares about: running and helping others.
“I don’t regret it at all,” Watson said of his decision to take on multiple roles. “I’m a competitive person, so I want to push myself to my limits. That’s how you know what you’re capable of.”