Track kids coming on nicely

The Cayman Islands athletics scene is in a fine state and evidently always improving.

Nine of the island’s best juniors are currently in Pune, India at the Commonwealth Youth Games but there were plenty more youngsters left behind who will soon be challenging for championship medals.

Technical director of the athletics programme is Kenrick Williams who is keen to get talented kids hooked on the sport early.

‘What we’re trying to do this year is to get as many young athletes as possible into the programme,’ he says.

‘We start at five years old in what we call the pee wee group and then from seven to 12 it’s the youth and then we have the juniors. So what we’re trying to do is to build from what’s already there. After the juniors we have the Under 23s and then the seniors.

‘What we’ve found out is that if we wait too long to get them into track and field we have this big gap.

‘If you notice who’s running now on the international scene, it’s Cydonie Mothersill. Who’s behind her? We have nobody for the next four years to fill that gap at senior level.

‘But we do have good junior girls coming up but we still have a big gap. So what we’re trying to do for the next eight years is to minimise that gap, so that as soon as one steps out we have one to step in.’

Three promising athletes Williams believes have the ability to be world class if they stick to it are Ryan Kirkaldy, nine, Ashleigh Whittaker, ten, and Mitchell Forbes, 17. Kirkaldy was good enough to complete the two-mile Fidelity Fun Runs recently.

‘It’s a transition,’ says Williams. ‘Ryan is nine years old, a middle distance runner from one mile to five kilometres. We try to highlight his ability.

‘Ashleigh has just come from the primary school to middle school. She won her age group in the high jump.

Little Ryan says: ‘I started on track a couple of months ago because my mum thought I was really good at running, so she got me into the track club.

‘I did two Fidelity Runs. The first one was 15 minutes and 57 seconds. And the other one was 16 minutes and 1 seconds.’ Well Ryan, you beat me by around six minutes both times.

Mum Christina admits: ‘Ryan beats me too. I’m proud of him. He started showing potential before he was four years old, doing one mile runs.

‘He really enjoys it and the longer the distance the better. He’s done some 5ks too. I think he has a lot of potential and only needs to learn the format. He doesn’t do any other sport this seriously but goes to the sailing after school and plays tennis so he is well rounded.

Ashleigh says: ‘I do high jump and 800m. I’ve only been doing them from last month and really like it.’

She loves football too which is not surprising because dad is Alfredo Whittaker, former professional goalkeeper and now Cayman’s top referee.

‘Ashleigh started in football but then she started showing aptitude in track and field,’ says Alfredo.

‘She was called by Red Bay School to be part of the track team and when I went to see her high jump training I really didn’t know she had that sort of quality. She has a natural strength in her legs.

‘That’s a big plus for her. I’m really looking forward to seeing her in the 800 metres too because she has good stamina.’

Forbes is a John Gray High School pupil. His best time for 100m is 11.4 seconds. He has already jumped 6.4 metres. Both marks are excellent age-group achievements.

‘In the next four years I’m going to try to exceed myself to go to the next Olympics,’ Forbes says. ‘I think I’m capable. Determination is the key to everything.

‘As a kid I used to do every sport but then I locked on to track and field and keep myself locked onto that. Every day I train.’

Does he aspire to emulate Usain Bolt? ‘I’m going to be the new Mitchell Forbes. Usain is my inspiration right now, he’s phenomenal.’

He is studying technical engineering drawing and hopes to succeed in that if track and field doesn’t take him to the heights.