Gillispie leads medal assault

A Cayman Brac athlete had a stellar performance in El Salvador.

Ameilia Gillispie captured a bronze medal in the women’s heptathlon at the recent Central America and Caribbean Junior Championship, held in El Salvador. She had a cumulative collection of 4,263 points, becoming the first female in the history of these islands to medal in the heptathlon.

Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly praised Gillispie for sticking it through the hard times.

“There is a saying, “build it and they will come,” O’Connor-Connolly said. “Amelia demonstrated an ability to persevere through the hard times and her coach pushed to acquire the hurdles, which shows that once people get the equipment they need, they can and more than likely will succeed.

“Ameilia’s story should have a lot of appeal. She is an inspiration to us all. Consider the population on the Brac and that it was only seven months ago that she got actual hurdles with which to practice. It shows her determination and great potential. Ameilia, we are proud of you,”

For the record, the heptathlon is a gruelling two-day event of seven competitions, namely 100 metre hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m, long jump, javelin and 800m.

In Ameilia’s first event, the 100m hurdles, she placed second in a time of 15.14 seconds; in high jump she was fourth with a height of 1.51 metres. She placed third in the shot put, throwing a distance of 10.49m. She rounded out the first day’s competition by winning the 200m in a time 25.39s.

Going into the second day, Ameilia knew she was in medal contention, which she had to do her best to maintain. She placed fifth on that day in long jump (4.66m), javelin (26.95m) and in the 800m with a time of 2.45.87.

Gillispie thought she was out of the running, but her performance the day before was enough to take home a bronze.

“I was surprised that I walked away with a medal because anything can happen,” Gillispie said. “My only thought was I want to make my country, parents and coach proud. I was really focused.”

The daughter of Jenifer and Donavon Gillispie did not have an easy time qualifying for the championships. In fact, her stumbling block was the hurdles. But with the dedication of her coach Harold Sanford, her own grit and generous help from the Minister of District Administration, Works, Lands and Agriculture, as well the Cayman Islands Athletic Association, Ameilia was able to qualify at a recent event in Tampa.

Coach Sanford explained that part of Ameilia’s challenge was that there were no hurdles on the Brac and she had to use milk crates to practise.

“It wasn’t until January this year when the athletic association donated 20 hurdles that she was able to practise on actual hurdles,” Sanford said.

The 16-year-old practised six days a week. At first, she struggled with the three-count step that is required, but by April she had mastered the timing, her coach said.

“Ameilia’s determination really impressed me. She wanted to compete, and not just to compete, but to win a medal. I am proud of her for not just sticking to her athletic plan, but for doing well academically. She handled the workload, even through the tough moments, and she has been rewarded.”

Ameilia was part of an eight-member delegation comprising of six athletes: Gillispie, Demetri Chambers, Jonathan Frederick, Ashleigh Nalty, Tiffany Cole, Alexander Pascal and coach Tyrone Yen and team manager Elizbeth Ibeh. Together they propelled Cayman to one silver and two bronze medals at the championship.

Nalty placed third in the Under-20 girls high jump with a height of 1.70m to become the team’s first medallist. Alexander Pascal captured a silver with a throw of 68.84m in the U18 javelin event.

In addition to O’Connor-Connolly, Minister of Sports Mark Scotland congratulated the athletes for their outstanding showings.