Youth Sports

Young Jamaicans are on the track to greatness

From left to right, Jamaica's Jayd'n Johnson, Selah Stiebel, Raechel Williams and Probean Champagnie.
From left to right, Jamaica's Jayd'n Johnson, Selah Stiebel, Raechel Williams and Probean Champagnie. For the Miami Herald

Jamaican track athletes can make fast work of you, as in being a blur as they race past you on the track.

The small island of Jamaica has a history of producing the world’s best sprinters and dominating that category at the Olympics. Some familiar names would include Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Yohan Blake, Asafa Powell, Merlene Otty and Veronica Campbell-Brown.

On a soggy Friday at the Ansin Sports Complex in Miramar, the future of Jamaican sprinting was on display during the first day of the three-day Northwest Express Track and Field Classic. And you better believe the young sprinters from Sts. Peter & Paul Preparatory running in the meet are all aware of the Jamaican heritage they are expected to live up to.

So much so, all of them can nicely imitate Bolt’s iconic lightning bolt pose.

“He’s the greatest sprinter ever to exist,” said Jayd’n Johnson, an 11-year- old fifth-grader. “I actually got to meet Bolt, and he was very nice.

“I wanted to race him,” the completely confident Johnson said with a smile. “I’d win, for sure.”

Another 11-year- old, Selah Stiebel, picked Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce as her favorite sprinter. “Usain Bolt is the most famous, but I like Shelly,” she said. “Of course, Bolt would beat her in a race, but I like her more because she is inspiring me to be a better athlete.”

Another 11-year- old female runner, Raechel Williams, also picked Fraser-Pryce as the sprinter she would most like to emulate. “Yes, probably because she’s a girl, but I met her and she was very kind. I think that’s another good reason.

“To me, she’s an inspiration,” added Williams, who is in her first year of running.

The final young person picking his favorite Jamaican sprinter was Probean Champagnie, 10.

Champagnie, like Johnson, is not lacking for confidence. He said he will allow you to pronounce – or even spell -- his last name as “Champion.” Then he was asked how fast he is. “Really fast,” he quickly responded.

Champagine’s favorite sprinter is Yohan Blake. Hey, what about Bolt?

“Bolt is fast,” Champagnie said, using all the wisdom he has gathered in his 10 years, “but I saw him on TV and he’s really not a people person.”

Hmm, how did Bolt offend you, Mr. Champagnie?

“Oh, I’ve never met him, but he just walks past people.”

With all that said, the four young sprinters dispersed – as you might guess, quickly.

Overseeing the four sprinters and the entire Jamaican team – no easy task – is Javaun Moore, 29.

Moore teaches his troops more than speed.

“I want them to love the sport,” Moore said, “and if they do that they will give back to kids in the future. That’s what I want out of these kids.”

That’s the same trail Moore traveled to find himself in the coaching position he currently holds. His best accomplishment as a runner was to win an age group championship.

“I never made it to the Olympics,” he said, looking at his runners at they prepared to warm up, “so my goal is to get one of these kids to the Olympics.”

However, his goals go beyond that.

“I would love to be the coach of the Jamaican Olympic team,” he added.

Until then, he’s perfectly happy coaching – and trying to keep track of – all the kids on his current team.

“At times, they give me a headache,” he said, “but I love them.”

▪ Preliminaries were the main portion of Friday’s competition, and Saturday’s second day of the meet starts at 8 a.m.