When Chantelle Morrison was a baby, and that wasn’t so long ago, she says she loved to run up and down the hallways of her house. Now 10 years old, those legs are still churning and she shows no sign of slowing down.
Morrison has quietly become one of the Caribbean’s hottest pre-teen sprinters. The Cayman-born George Hicks student recently scored an impressive double in Jamaica against ten countries and most of the region’s fastest juniors at the Caribbean Teachers Union Biannual Track and Field Championships. Running with poise and confidence way beyond her years, she won both the 100 and 200 meter events in the under-11 division. This was no simple feat given the Caribbean’s world-renowned stock of junior sprint talent.
‘I was nervous,’ she admitted. ‘But when I went out on the track I just overcame my fears and found a way to allow myself to run a great race.
‘When I’m in a race, I just focus on what I’m doing. Inside, I feel like I’m going to win and it feels marvelous.’
Morrison is coached by Tyrone Yen, a long-time friend of Morrison’s family. He also coaches a few other junior athletes. He says Morrison’s performance in the Jamaican meet did not surprise him because he knew she was capable of achieving something special there.
‘As coaches we have tables, and she is running times that are really more normal for a 14 year old,’ he said. ‘Clearly she has immense potential.’
Assessments of Morrison’s potential are not limited to the hints that fast times offer. It takes about two minutes of conversation for an adult to realize that this is not your typical ten-year-old girl. She is exceptionally polite, warm, articulate and there is a light in her eyes that leads one to assume that the girl is going places-whether it is with track and field or something else.
‘She is smart and easy to work with,’ said Yen, a proud coach if ever there was one. ‘She follows instructions very well and for her age, she is very mature.’
Yen says Morrison’s work habits would be impressive for an athlete of any age.
‘She has a lot of natural ability but she trains very hard. There are not many 10-year-olds who would get up at 7 in the morning and go to the beach to run. It’s very rewarding for me to work with her. It’s not all about winning every time. It’s about doing your best. To see her do the best that she can do gives me a feeling I just can’t explain. I remember where she came from, just a few years ago she was tiny tot, and now she is doing so well. It gives me a great sense of pride.’
Morrison’s attitude toward the sport that is offering her so much glory is perhaps surprising, some might say impressive. She doesn’t mention gold medals, million-dollar endorsement deals or even college scholarships. No, this ten-year-old is content to approach the sport like, well, a ten-year-old. For all her speed, Chantelle is in no hurry to conquer the world.
‘I’m not taking this too seriously right now,’ she said. ‘It’s just fun and games. I would tell other kids who want to run to train hard and do your best but don’t take it too seriously. Have fun.’
In addition to track sessions and beach runs, Morrison trains at World Gym. The Grand Cayman facility provides free membership for several of Yen’s athletes. Chantelle attends George Hicks School and is the daughter of Olive and Anton Morrison. They live in Savannah, Grand Cayman.