Harper’s always on track

Athletics coach Jerry Harper is one of the busiest figures in Cayman sports.

The founder of the Phoenix Athletic Club, he’s coached and taught in schools all over the region, including the Bahamas, Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, Haiti, British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

He is a vice-president of the Cayman Islands Athletic Association and public relations director for them and the Special Olympics. Four Caymanian athletes are competing at the Special Olympics in Shanghai at the moment and Harper did the media rounds this week to help publicise the fact. Another aspect of his portfolio is to promote track and field in the sister islands.

‘I’m a minor cog in the Special Olympics movement,’ he said modestly. ‘Basic thing, of course, with Special Olympics is participation and that alone is a wonderful achievement.’

Phoenix organises a lot of events and track meets throughout the year. They have a number of signature events, particularly the recently run Fidelity Fun Run series. Coming up is the United Nations Day run on 21 October, and they will assist Radio Cayman with the two-mile run on 3 November. There’s also Dashing Through the Sand on Boxing Day, a beach event of around 200 people, many trying to run off their Christmas excesses. Some can only manage a walk but it’s a lot of fun and very popular.

Harper is proud of the diversity at that event. ‘We have children in diapers, even pregnant ladies and ages up to a 92-year-old lady who took part last year. This is the tenth year we’ve done that.’

The 69-year-old American will also be helping out with Cayman’s popular marathon on 3 December, sponsored by Kelly Holdings, with proceeds to the cadet corps. ‘It’s a double loop that starts by Breezes, goes down through South Sound up through Old Prospect Road and back down to Breezes and a loop through town makes it the half-marathon and then repeat that.’