JAMAICA OBSERVER – St. Lucian track and field star Julien Alfred, who has taken up a scholarship at St Catherine High School, says she is ready and raring to battle Jamaica’s best at Champs.
“The way they speak about it (Champs) make me afraid, but I am up for the challenge,” Alfred told the Jamaica Observer, while interrupting a recent evening training session.
Alfred, 14, comes to Jamaica with a big reputation following her record-breaking performance at the Sagicor Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Age Group Championships in the heptathlon in July.
She won four of the seven events contested, setting records in two of them by amassing a record 4,466 points.
Alfred ran 9.63 seconds in the 80m dash, breaking the record of 10.16 set by Laure-Anne Jabin of Guadeloupe in 2011. While in the 60m hurdles, her 9.01 seconds erased the 9.55 run by Yanis David, also of Guadeloupe, and also in 2011.
Alfred’s move might be the first for St Catherine High, but Caribbean athletes have been making their mark in Jamaica for sometime, most notably Delano Williams of the Turks and Caicos Islands at Munro College; Kingston College’s Zharnel Hughes from Anguilla, and Calabar High’s Jorel Bellafonte of the Cayman Islands.
Alfred, a former student at the Leon Hess Comprehensive Secondary School, said life in Jamaica has been well although the training is much harder.
“It’s been good so far. Food is good, but training in Jamaica is harder than what I did back in St Lucia,” she noted with a chuckle.
Alfred, who has a personal best of 11.76 seconds for the 100m, and a National Junior Record of 24.27 seconds for the 200m, is very confident of leaving her mark in Jamaica.
“I am looking forward to breaking my personal record and hopefully Champs record,” said Alfred.
She will join St Catherine’s improving track and field programme and will be under the tutelage of Marlon James, who led St Catherine High to 10th place at last year’s GraceKennedy ISSA Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championships.
“She has been here from August and she is fitting in well, but being a 14-year-old in a new environment it’s going to take some transition and adjustment, but for the most part it has been most positive,” James pointed out.
The youngster, dubbed the most promising athlete ever in St Lucia, participated in the Class Three 150m at the Wesley Powell meet on Saturday, December 12 and came face to face with one of Jamaica’s finest in Kiara Grant of the Convent of Mercy Alpha.
Grant emerged victorious in 19.64 seconds with Julien second in 20.14.
“Her races so far, is just learning the Jamaican environment right now,” explained James, who represented Kingston College in the Class Three long jump in 1994.
“She is about 60 per cent, she had some shin splints. She is just getting into the real part of the training now. She is very loaded at the moment and doing a lot of gym work strengthening some weak areas. Her times are okay, although we not looking at times anyway. So apart from that I am satisfied. The best thing that happened is that she finished injury free,” said James, who had under his wings one Natasha Morrison while coaching at Glengoffe High school.
Alfred’s move to St Catherine High is a massive boost to an institution that is not a traditional track and field powerhouse.
“I expect great things from her. She is a very talented athlete and people should expect very good performances from her. She is at a school that will not pressure her to do maximum events,” said James.
A few years ago, St Catherine failed to get a single point at Champs, then the following year they got five points, 16 the next year and last year they garnered 44 points points which was their highest ever.
“Getting a young lady like this into our programme means a lot to the school, community and the team itself to get a foreign national into the team. It’s just not a foreign national but a champion. It augurs well for us going forward and gives us that leverage that we need to move a little bit more into the top 10,” said James.
With Julien around the St Catherine girls are expected to make significant noise and make their presence felt with their small band of approximately 40 athletes.
“We made 14 finals, all 200m finals and all 100m finals except one. Its hasn’t been easy because the culture here is not track and field, it’s basketball, netball and cricket, so we just making inroads to it,” he noted.
“But from I took over it has been great. I want to say thanks. The help from the alumni has been great, Dr Oneil Mundle, Paul Brown and the parents,” he added.