Tiffany Cole has represented Cayman in middle-distance running at the last five CARIFTAs, a fantastic achievement considering how tough it is just to qualify for the Games.
She is justifiably proud, having competed at 800 meters, 1500m and 3,000m. No medal came, but the overall standard is so high that just to be competing with the elite is commendable considering that in Cayman, Cole is in a class of her own on the track.
Her most satisfactory run was in the 1500m three years ago at the CARIFTA in Bermuda, finishing fifth of nine entrants. “I felt really good about that one because the conditions were very windy,” Cole said.
“I also enjoyed my 800m the following year in the Bahamas. The atmosphere was absolutely amazing. It was like you were actually at the Olympics. It was so exciting, as if everyone was watching. It felt so good.”
Her last CARIFTA was last month in St. Kitts and Nevis; when she turns 19 in October, she will be above the age limit to compete again.
Her next big competition is the Island Games in Jersey in July, assuming she reaches the 1500m qualifying time.
Cole is studying for an associate degree in business administration at UCCI, and next year she hopes to have gained an athletics scholarship to study at a U.S. college, which would also give her a chance to lower her times.
Reaching the Olympics is her ultimate sporting ambition, partly inspired by track queen Cydonie Mothersill-Stephens, who has competed in five.
That means Cole has to concentrate solely on running, although she has considered trying other sports for fun. “My coach [Derek Larner] doesn’t want me to get injured in other sports.”
In the few years Larner has been coaching talented teenagers like Cole at his Middle Distance Runners club, he has seen significant improvement in Cayman’s competitiveness at CARIFTAs.
But in the past five years Larner noticed that CARIFTA middle-distance times have lowered dramatically.
“A few years ago Tiffany would have been medaling, but the competition has become so tough and in Cayman she has struggled to get serious competition on the track,” Larner said.
“This year Kiara McLaughlin has closed the gap, but it’s still been very difficult for Tiffany, who has been Cayman’s most consistent CARIFTA athlete in the past five years.
“It is unfortunate that she hasn’t got a medal, but you can’t do anything about the competition nor the lack of competition in Cayman.”
Larner hopes that Cole doesn’t drop out of the sport now that she is officially an adult.
“She is a gifted and talented young lady and, yes, I don’t want her to do other sports because I’m a bit selfish that way.
“I don’t want my athletes to get injured. If they want to do another discipline, that’s fine, but if they start taking knocks and it affects their training, that’s not good.”
He has a bunch of youngsters coming through, inspired by Cole: Tahj Lewis, Dellano Callender, Kiara McLaughlin and Dominic Dyer.
Larner tips McLaughlin, 16, to emulate Cole in future CARIFTAs. “Kiara is a little fighter and she, along with the others, will be at CARIFTA next year. I predict there will be eight middle distance runners.”
Dyer, 16, was the only Caymanian who medaled at this year’s CARIFTA, a bronze in the 3000m. Larner hopes some of the others are inspired enough to reach the podium in the future.
“They are all getting better. Dominic did really well, and you have Dellano and Tahj who did tremendously well too. Tahj did an 800m personal best of 1 minute, 54.22 seconds in the final of the Under-20 boys and he is only 17. People don’t realize that.
“We’ve got a great platform now to build middle- and long-distance running in Cayman. I’m quite excited because in distances the curve is going up and up.”
Larner added that the 6-foot, 6-inch Dyer had a rapid growth spurt just before CARIFTA which affected his preparation. “By next year, I hope he’ll have stopped growing and he’ll turn up and get the gold in a new CARIFTA record. I know he can do it.”
He said that the group’s morale is exemplary and their attitude toward training is “fantastic.”
“To be their coach is a privilege,” he added,