Saydrian Cambell (right) and shane Buckle, both from Jamaica, finish first and second in the 100-meter dash in the Bantan division, at the Northwest track and field classic.
Jamaica has one of the largest contingents, some 300 strong, competing in the Northwest Express Track and Field Classic this week.
There’s one good explanation for that. That would be Usain Bolt, the current king of the 100 meters who has turned himself into a national hero and uplifted his nation in the process.
“We would all like to be like Bolt,” said 15-year-old Shavanes Robinson, who is a sprinter on the St. Peter and Paul Prep School team that is competing in the Northwest Classic. “We have a lot of country pride because of Bolt. A lot of people look up to us because of him.”
Chavaughn McDonald, 17 and another member of the St. Peter and Paul team, added, “The man is super — no, he’s very super. A real champion.”
Neither of those athletes have met Bolt, but they know someone who has — their coach, Javaun Moore.
Moore, 26, trained with Bolt and ran head-to-head against him when they were 21.
“He’s the greatest athlete in the world,” Moore said. “Usain changed Jamaica.” He promptly gave an example.
“At one point, Jamaica had the highest crime rate in the world, and Bolt ceased crime for a week during the Beijing Olympics. Everything in the country was shut down for a week, and the only thing anybody cared about was him running in the Olympics. Even the criminals shut down.”
Bolt did not disappoint, winning three golds in Beijing (100, 200 and 400 relay). One of the offshoots was the youth of the country flocked to join track programs.
Bolt, 25, is charismatic and flamboyant and often tries to psyche out his opponents with his prerace routine. “That’s his way,” Moore said. “He intimidates. Even his walk before a race is intimidating.”
Moore, who doesn’t lack for confidence himself, refused to be intimidated by Bolt.
“Lots of times I told him I was going to beat him,” Moore said.
How many times did you beat him, Coach?
“Hmmm, never,” Moore said with a laugh. “I’m no competition for that guy.”
Moore’s two runners, Robinson and McDonald, were asked where they will be when Bolt is running in London in less than seven weeks. They both responded simultaneously: “Right in front of a TV.”
Then Robinson added, “We have to watch it by any means. Don’t need any food or anything else. Nothing else is necessary. Just watching is what we want. We have to see him live.”
What if they are in school when he runs?
“Even the teachers will stop class to watch it,” Robinson said.
The two are extremely proud of the nation’s track reputation, particularly in the sprints. Jamaica, with a population of less than three million, has produced the world’s greatest sprinter in Bolt and two more who rank high among the greatest in Asafa Powell and Yohan Blake.
“Sprinting originates in Jamaica,” Robinson said.
McDonald was asked if he ever envisioned himself racing Bolt and beating him.
“Maybe when he’s 80,” he said.
The two young Jamaican athletes, participating in the Northwest Classic for the first time, have enjoyed the camaraderie and competition of the meet.
“This is a lot of fun,” McDonald said. “The environment is wonderful. We want to come back next year.” Reynolds wins
Northwest Express’ Robin Reynolds won the gold medal in the long jump with a leap of 19 feet, 6 ¾ inches. The winning jump by Reynolds, who will attend the University of Florida, was more than a yard longer than the next-closest competitor.