Former Texas track star finding her way through sports media in rural Wisconsin

JT Bowen, General Sports Reporter

Snow falls outside Serenity Douglas’ window in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, an exceedingly common and not yet welcome sight for the ex-sprinter accustomed to Austin’s warm winters.

Now a sports reporter for WJFW News, Douglas is far from her Atlanta roots, figuring out how to move up the journalism career ladder while isolated in the Wisconsin tundra with only one friend. Despite the circumstances, Douglas is making the best of it, fusing her experience as an athlete with her nose for telling stories.

Douglas ran track and field at Texas from 2016 to 2020. She was a fixture of the women’s 4x400m relay team, helping the Longhorns win two Big 12 Outdoor Championships. While successful at Texas, the allure of running professionally never really spoke to her.

“I didn’t pursue track and field professionally,” Douglas said. “I’m a realist. I looked at it like, if they’re not knocking my door down, I’m not about to knock theirs down for little money.”

As an intern at the Longhorn Network, she watched former Texas football stars Emmanuel Acho and Jordan Shipley transition from athletes to talking heads, and she realized that a similar path might be in the cards for her. 

“I can’t really remember when exactly I decided I wanted to be a reporter,” Douglas said. “But I just know the thought process went something like, ‘Well you like talking a lot, Serenity, and you like sports. How can we put those two together?’”

Her interest in moving from playing sports to talking about them heightened in the summer and fall of 2020 when Black Lives Matter protests swept the nation in response to the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Edrick Floréal, Texas head track and field coach, was unwavering in his endorsement of his team’s protests as well as their refusal to sing “The Eyes of Texas,” the University’s school song, which has come under fire in recent years for its racist history. 

“My experiences have helped me become more sympathetic and understanding, especially when our students are experiencing similar issues in their lives that I have,” Floréal said in 2020. 

As a high schooler trying to land a scholarship, Douglas said she never would have dared to speak publicly on the pervasive racist culture that stained American institutions out of fear that she might have an offer rescinded. Now, she watches as it becomes normalized.

“They want to ask LeBron about politics, and then they want to tell him to shut up and dribble,” Douglas said. “So it was kind of weird. It’s like, they want to hear from athletes, but then they don’t.”

Douglas wrote for FloTrack and after graduating, covering track and honing her interviewing skills. She even started a podcast during the pandemic. But she needed to land at a real station to keep moving up, which she did in September.

“Obviously, I’m trying to get the station experience, but they want you to go get it somewhere else,” Douglas said. “They want you to go get it in the middle of nowhere, and there’s nothing out here in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Absolutely nothing. I’m not exaggerating. It’s like College Station but worse.”

However, Douglas’ mother, Chimain, knows that her stop in rural Wisconsin is an opportunity for her to learn about herself and sharpen her skills. 

“She’s just not going to stop,” Chimain said. “I think she’s really gonna get to the top.”

Still in Atlanta, a thousand miles from her daughter, Chimain misses her dearly, sometimes walking into her childhood bedroom to reminisce. But she loves seeing the hard-working nature she instilled in Serenity and the tenacity stemming from her father come into focus.

“She’s gonna keep pushing and pushing and pushing,” Chimain said.

Chimain said her daughter’s extroverted nature and love of talking made journalism a sensible path.

“Serenity would talk to a flagpole,” Chimain said.

Douglas is nothing if not persistent, trying to make the best of her time in Rhinelander. A practicing Christian, she leans heavily on her faith, her family and her dog, Teddy, to give her a semblance of home while she discovers the extent of her ambition.

“Everything that glitters is not gold,” Douglas said. “ I am on TV three times a day, sometimes for five days a week. So what? They recognize me at Walmart, big whoop. I’m not driving a Range Rover.”

Now 25, Douglas has had brief moments of doubt on the coldest and loneliest days, tucked away in northeastern Wisconsin. But those thoughts quickly pass by.

“I’m a hustler,” Douglas said. “So the thought comes and goes. If I could do the 10 400s that coach Flo gave me, I can work a 16-hour day.”