Kingston, Jamaica, WI; Leighton Spencer on Christmas vacation had the opportunity to escort his grand parents back to Jamaica during the week of January 11th, 2010.
Leighton was coming off the Cross Country season layoff which ended in late November 2009. The Columbia University coaches had prescribed light training over the Christmas season; only running at moderate paces every other day.
Thus, when Brian Smith Chairman of the Douglas Forrest Invitational contacted Leighton's father, KCOB Noel Spencer, through the connections of Michael McCook another KC oldboy with the invitation to participate in the 5000 meters at the National Stadium, there were some deliberations and decisions to be made. Should Leighton run this early in a season that has not yet started or enjoy the week in Jamaica.
Brian Smith sent the necessary information for the meet. The application, the registration fee amount, and the schedule of events. Between Teddy McCook and Brian, plus Hamil Pagon, arrangements were made for Leighton to meet with Mr. Howard Aris – President of the Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association and members of the body. That meeting took place on the Tuesday afternoon. After the mid-afternoon meeting; Leighton journeyed to Clovelly Park to see first hand where the purple pride trains.
At KC, old boys like Mr. Morant from the '65 World Manning Cup team was at the campus. Mr. G arrived a few minutes later, then the Manager of the KC track team arrived – Mr. Hugh Powell. Incidentally, Hugh seem very shaken up as he walked toward the group. We learned that he just experienced the shock waves from the Haiti earthquake, so he was not totally himself. Other old boys from different eras appeared on the campus for the rest of the evening.
The KC squad was training in different sections of the campus. Some were practicing the shot put, the 400 meters, others were training at the longer distances. Some were relaxing. As the day moved on; Hamil Pagan appeared and greeted Leighton, then proceeded to give motivational speeches to the various youngsters that make up the KC contingent.
Each old boy encouraged Leighton to go for the black, green, and gold colours. Thus the remaining week, Leighton began to run and prepare himself for the 5000 meter on Saturday morning. The Columbia University coaching staff gave strict instructions that there should be no surges or hard running during the race.
The contingent of Michael McCook, Noel Spencer, Michael Davis, grandma and grandpa Spencer, plus Leighton's cousin arrived at the stadium early Saturday morning. Brian Smith and the organizing staff for the meet were well prepared and were registering athletes as they arrived at the stadium.
The race steward made the first call for the 5k at 8:45 am since race time was 9:30am. Some nineteen athletes signed up to take the post position at the start of the 200 meters markers at the far side of the stadium. The temperature at this time was 88 degrees.
The starters gun went off and the runners began their multilapping journey around the beautiful stadium track. To win and finish you had to complete twelve and a half laps. At the end of the first lap, Leighton was in fourteenth position, since he started out slow, in order to adjust to the heat and the tempo of the race.
Osbourne Allen running unattached took the early lead and maintained it for the first three laps. As the fourth lap began, young Spencer had moved up to second position with Allen keeping an even pace with a twenty meter distance over Spencer. However, Spencer started to ignore his coaches instructed and completed the fourth lap in 68 seconds, closing the twenty meter gap to two meters as the fifth lap began.
At the three hundred meter mark of the fifth lap Spencer took the lead. Spencer later said that he was expecting competition from Osbourne, but none was to come from Osbourne. At the tenth lap – Osborne made a surge, however, Spencer spotted the surge and made his own surge in order to maintain the gap which at this time was approximately one hundred meters.
Leighton won the Douglas Forrest 5000 meters Open invitational with a time of 16 minutes three seconds. Osborne Allen finished second, a few seconds behind. Both embraced each other and began a conversation with each other. The time was not the fastest by an under 20 long distance runner in Jamaica. However, Michael McCook stated "Spencer basically jogged the entire race, if there was competition it would have been interesting to see the time; because it seems that he could easily run under 15 minutes."
During the Medal Award ceremonies; Michael Fray the announcer relayed the statistics that young Spencer is possibly the first sibling of an alumni to win this event at the Douglas Forrest Invitational. Brian Smith was very happy for the participation of a young athlete from Columbia University; another first for the event.