Irma Can't Stop Us!

Sherine Williams, Journalist | November 20, 2017 4:58 pm MST
Photo Credit: Sherine Williams/BVI Platinum News
Despite the obvious devastation at the A.O. Shirley Recreational Grounds, the facility is once again buzzing with activity, as BVI student athletes hit the track in preparation for the track and field season, which starts in January.

Amid the damaged fixtures which lay waste all around the blue track, athletes of different ages, from various schools and local track clubs, train at different times each day.

They all have different goals and track meets to attend in the upcoming season. But all agree that Hurricane Irma and her trail of destruction were not enough to stop them from representing the BVI next year.

"We never stopped. We were back in training probably as early as a week after Irma. We are competing internationally with countries like Jamaica, the US and places in Europe, and those athletes don't stop so we can't stop," said track coach Willis Todman from Sprint Tech.

He is currently preparing three female athletes from the Elmore Stoutt High School, who were engaged in a training session while he spoke to BVI Platinum News.

He explained that even student athletes at the elementary level are in training in preparation for various competitions next year.

"Track and field for us is a business. Most of these kids in the BVI will be looking to go to colleges soon, so they need to be prepared so they can be picked up by recruiters who attend these events," Todman related.

He revealed that next year, high school students are set to compete at the annual CARIFTA games, OECS Games, World Junior Championships and some meets in the United States.

Once recruited to compete for overseas colleges (especially in the United States), BVI student athletes are paid up to $70,000 a year, to cover living expenses, tuition and books. This avenue is a lucrative one for juniors who get the opportunity to attend college free of cost, while doing track and field - something they enjoy.

Many are hoping to follow in the footsteps of 20 year-old BVI native Nelda Huggins, who was recently recruited by the University of Texas and is now ranked number 1 female junior athlete in the US for the women’s 100m event.

Kyron McMaster is also another BVI athlete who offers much hope to aspiring track stars in the Territory.

McMaster was coached locally by the late Xavier 'Dagg' Samuels and signed to colleges in the US before becoming the fastest 400m hurdler this year.

Todman said the BVI continues to show excellence in track, adding that a recruiter from a United States college travelled to the BVI last week, to express an interest in recruiting 16 year-old sprinter Beyoncé Defreitas, who is now under his tutelage.

"Last year she was the silver medalist at the the 200m at the Junior Commonwealth Games and that coach came down to show his face and express an interest. But it comes down to where Beyoncé will feel comfortable at the end of the day," Todman explained.

Defreitas agrees with her coach and told BVI Platinum News that she is waiting to see the other colleges that will express an interest in her before she picks an overseas university to compete for.

She is confident that she will be ready for next season, but admits that Irma did affect her focus for a while.

Photo Credit: Sherine Williams/BVI Platinum News
"It did slow me down for the first month, a little bit, but not much. Right now we trying to perfect form and I am pretty sure I'm gonna get it down pat before the season starts," Defreitas said with a smile.

Another athlete, 14 year-old Akrissa Eristee, said despite the impact of Hurricane Irma, she is confident that BVI athletes can still compete with top athletes in the Caribbean and the world next year.

"I am confident that we can bring it, just as hard. I feel confident that I am gonna reach my goals," Akrissa said.

She added that the resilience of the BVI people in the aftermath of Irma will inspire her to do her best next season.

She encouraged other student track athletes to stay focused and committed to the sport, despite various challenges they may face.

"Just stay focused and know that you really have to want it," Akrissa said.
-----
Copyright 2017 by Virgin Islands Platinum News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.