I did not have the good fortune of living in Jamaica when Lennox Graham coached Kingston College to successive Boys Championships. I heard from a distance, and caught up with the team at the annual running of the Penn Relays. As I have come to learn the coaching style of this gentleman, one thing I know for sure he is a coach who thinks. Maybe having an MBA speaks volumes about his ability to think in order to gain success.
As I have said many times before (sometimes too matter of factly), "not everyone who places a whistle in the mouth, and can tell an athlete to do something is a coach." George Thompson was a coach. Roy McLean is a Coach. William P. Moultrie is a coach. Coaches win games, matches and events with strategic thinking. They often think ten steps ahead of the athletes themselves, and the assistant coaches.
I do not have the results of the championships yesterday in terms of times and placing. I must admit that when I saw the times I was like, "okay". Then I saw the numbers in terms of bodies. The fan in me was like, "a wah dis fawda". I wanted to see times that pulverized the opposition like I know that these athletes have the capacity to do. I wanted to see JCSU "tun ova di place." Instead, as I sat back and pondered the images from JCSU's website, and the fact that the women won a CIAA Championship title for the first time in the school's history, and the men came a close second, the closest it has ever come in school history, pure genius became evident. That is what sets Coach Graham apart from most coaches.
I recall the recent interview he did with Sportsmax during the Boys and Girls Championships a couple of weeks ago. Teamwork in Championships is key. Only a few coaches could get their charges to sacrifice personal glory for the team's ultimate benefit. In Championships, it is points that count. Strategic thinking to beat your opponents with what you have at your disposal. Not making sense? Ponder this. Leford Green walked away with the Male Athlete of the Championships scoring thirty three points for himself alone. However, when you look behind the numbers, something emerges. He ran the 200 to finish second in 21.3. However his first race of the season he blasted a 20.5 to lead the nation. He had more races to run. He won the 400 in 46.6, because he needed to score more points in the 400m hurdles which he won in a jog. You see, Mr. Green already had all the Division II leading times in the nation in the 200, 400 and 400 hurdles. Now it was time to make sure that his points meshed with his teammates to try to win an OVERALL championship, and the fresher he was, the more he could contribute. Now sit back and think how many coaches can guide and garner the respect of their athletes to accept this role. As the team suceeds so do the athletes. It also goes to show you how Mr. Leford Green is a young man with a heart bigger than most. If there ever was a more humble young man who is always looking out for others, it is this young man. I have seen and mentored a number of young people; however, I have rarely come across anyone that is so gifted athletically, socially conscious of his fellow man, and takes every opportunity presented and makes the most of it.
The same is true for Shermaine Williams (Female Athlete of the Championships). Her performances throughout the championships revealed a true leader. Pure poetry in motion. It must have been like watching the Spartans 300 turning back the Persians. Shermaine had already qualified for all the sprints, the hurdles and the relays for the national championships. However, she is mature enough to work for the team, and mentor the younger ladies (including her little sister) and bring them through to a University's first ever CIAA Championships.
Shermaine Williams and Leford Green epitomize the "purple spirit". As I am writing, I remember that 4x400 that Carlton Aiken ran in the early eighties to hand off to the incomparable Milton Smith, while as a youngster was the most exciting 4x400 I had ever seen - a sprint hurdler leaving everything on field in an attempt to defeat our nemesis Calabar.
I remember being on the cycle track and watching as individuals had to carry Mr. Aiken off the field as his legs could not support him. I remember Donald "Engine" Burke running through hurdles to the chants of "Engine, Engine, Engine." Or who could forget Ian "Chariot" Harriot in the 800 and 1500 always in the mix to score points. Or who can forget Byron "Booga" Francis, coming into the last stretch in front of the grandstand to the chants of "Booga, Booga, Booga." I remember a minature little man with a big heart by the name of Martin Dawes who turned back all doubters with his explosive starts. I remember Errol "Sala" Lewis walking off the soccer field in the fall to do damage on the track in the spring. I remember that Manning Cup team that needed five goals in 1985 at halftime to beat Wolmers to reach (and eventually win) the Manning Cup finals. I remember a Sunlight Cup team that was bowled out for 154 runs on the first day of a two day final, and somehow lifted the trophy against a highly fancied Campion College team. It is in this environment that most of us developed that "purple spirit", and it is with a profound sense of joy that I see Coach Lennox Graham passing it on to another generation. As Mr. Green posted on Facebook last night, "Lennox Graham a mi coach fi life."!!!!! Anytime, anyone is affiliated with that great institution located at 2a North Street (either directly or indirectly), things will happen that will defy odds, and leave many people simply shaking their heads and saying, "they did it again."
Brain versus Brawn -- JCSU Women's team of sixteen individuals beat teams with close to thirty individuals. JCSU Men's team of fifteen individuals beat teams with close to thirty individuals. These two accomplishments were made not only with the talent on the track, but with a team commitment to winning, and a coach with an MBA who knows how to count, and overcome an almost fifty percent deficit in terms of number of fielded athletes. As we move into a stretch without pioneers Williams and Green who are graduating this year, the brand name of the program is now garnering both national and international interest. In the words of a recent businessman, "there is something special happening at JCSU with that track and field program." With the likes of Samantha Elliot (Immaculate Conception High School), and Rolando Berch (Kingston College) in the wings waiting to launch their intercollegiate careers next year, this program will not miss a beat.
I am going to have to load up on a yearlong supply of Twizzlers, Popcorn and Sprite. Oh by the way, I am not going to be able to make the Penn Relays this year due to prior obligations. However, the men's 4x100 and 4x400 teams should be fun to watch. A lighter version of the 4x400 ran a 3:07.90. I am still holding out hope for a 3:04 and possibly a 39 low 4x100. Both teams are made up of no less than three Fortisans...