BELIZE CITY, Wed. July 8, 2020– They are among perhaps the most under-appreciated athletes among the various popular sports in the country; but when it comes to quiet determination and singular pride and dedication to their craft, some top young track and field athletes presently training at the Marion Jones Sports Complex under the watchful eye of Belizean trainer Ernest Morris and Cuban coaches Roandys Hernandez and Lisandra Maria Rodriguez Alvarez (courtesy of the Olympic Committee), are outstanding role models, and deserve a long overdue showcase athletic meet for Belizean fans to show them some love and appreciation. Meanwhile, they quietly go through their daily routines in preparation for the next international meet, whenever it comes, while a host of young and not so young health fads strut their stuff walking, jogging, running or cycling around the asphalt turf that used to be a horserace track in another era, or indulge their athletic dreams on the recently built rubber-surfaced athletic track where serious runners also test themselves.
Observing young Glenford Williams, under the watchful eye of coach Roandys Hernandez, perform the repetitive exercise of swinging his leg over a hurdle bar in training for his race specialty, the 100 meter hurdle, leaves one with the impression that this young man is fully aware of the sacrifices he must make, however monotonous and difficult, on the road to improvement of his performance. The fifteen-year-old Williams, who is a second form student at Nazarene High School, is the reigning Central American Junior-A champion of the 100 meter hurdles, which he won in Honduras last year, 2019.
Also at the Marion Jones yesterday evening were four young ladies who are currently enrolled as athletic scholars at U-Tech junior college in Jamaica, where they began last January, 2019, but had to return home in late March of this year due to the current pandemic. Joelene Espejo, Faith Morris and the Carr sisters, Ashontie and Ashantie are expected to return to Jamaica on August 23 in time for the new school year at U-Tech which begins on August 24 or 25. During their extended break due to Covid-19, the girls are maintaining their athletic training, and yesterday they were supervised by athletic coach attached to the National Sports Council, Ernest Morris as they endured a rigorous sequence of hundred meter runs at just under top speed, with short breaks between runs. If you think a hundred meter run is a “piece of cake,” try doing a set of ten such runs within a twenty minute span.
We first set eyes on nineteen-year-old Miss Hilary Gladden yesterday, as Cuban coach Roandys Hernandez introduced her as the current Central American Junior Female champion in both the 100 meter and 200 meter sprints. She holds the C.A. Junior Female record in the 200m.
There is a lot of activity these days at the Marion Jones stadium which had been closed to the public for months due to the State of Emergency in connection with the Covid-19 pandemic; and many folks are now making the most of the opportunity to get some outdoor exercise in the cool fresh air coming off the adjacent Caribbean Sea. Incidentally, according to track and field icon Ian Gray, who said his planned invitational meet earlier this year was aborted due to Covid-19, the rubber track at Marion Jones is not ideally suited for internationally sanctioned competitive meets, due to the prevalent wind factor. Also, he says the drop-offs on the edge lanes of the track are too sudden and steep to meet international standards of safety.
We also got to meet athletic royalty in the person of female athletic coach from Cuba, Lisandra Maria Rodriguez Alvarez, who was the 2003 Junior U-20 Female world champion in the Discus Throw at the Olympics in Canada. She coached Belize’s Mia Sylvester (who was not at Marion Jones yesterday) to a Gold Medal and record in the Shot Put at last year’s Central American Games.
Another young man going through 100 meter training runs under the watchful eye of coach Roandys Hernandez was Belizean Shaun Gill. Like Belizean legend Kaina Martinez, Shaun, though not as accomplished as Kaina, had caught the eye of Belizean athletic coach at Texas A&M, Colin Thurton, who saw potential with his 10.5s hundred meter run at the Central American Games a couple years ago. A Wesley College and SJC 6th Form graduate, Shaun was a BTL employee for six years, when he resigned last June, 2019, to take up the offer in August at Texas A&M, where Thurton had helped him to secure an athletic scholarship. Twenty-seven- year-old Shaun Gill is putting in some serious work on the track, and looks in fine condition to return next month for his second year at Texas A&M.
On a second visit to the Marion Jones today, we also observed track and field legend Tricia Flores, as she worked on her long jump form along with a young trainee, with veteran coach Fred Evans keeping watch from across the rubber track, while supervising training runs with a host of young athletes.
Among the casual joggers around the track today we saw the veteran legendary sprinter Jaheed Smith; and there were likely other athletic notables in the “hotbed of activity” at the Marion Jones Sports Complex, which also features football training camps for youth on the football field, and a daily serving of indoor volleyball and basketball youth camps inside the Mexico Sports Center.
Come on out and stretch those legs, folks!