Yay for Shara Proctor and Zharnel Hughes. For a while I have been watching these two athletes. I have watched them train on our grass track/ cricket field/ football field/ assembly field/ exercise arena/ concert area and everything else you can think about field at the James Ronald Webster Park (JRWP) in The Valley, Anguilla. On the same field they also excelled locally in both the Primary School and High School Sports Days. In fact for the years they spent in primary and secondary school they stayed on top of their events.
Now Anguilla is a small island with roughly 14,000 people but the talent that comes out of this island is astounding. The youth in Anguilla always manage to achieve something great whether it is in music, sports, sailing or academics. This is especially visible in the regional track and field meets that take place in the Caribbean.
I remember one year at a regional meet in St Kitts one of our athletes, about 8 years old at the time, took off his spikes because he liked to run barefoot. Many people laughed until he finished first at the line but that story is for another time.
Shara Proctor loved sports and she did them all well but football and track and field were her favourites. She was always determined, competitive and was not afraid to play like the boys. There is a story that involved my jaw not liking her for a while but that is also for another time. There was even a time when she contemplated focusing on football only because she could not have the best of both worlds. I for one am glad to see that she did not. I am also glad she narrowed it down to Long Jump as well because she has become Anguilla’s most decorated athlete even before she went on to represent Britain. She has medalled several times at CARIFTA which is one of world’s most prestigious track and field meets as well as others such as CAC Junior Championships, CAC Championships and NACAC U-23 Championships. I remembered her first World Championship did not go so well and she stayed only in the qualification rounds. Two years later she placed sixth with a national record of 6.71m.
In 2010, she chose to represent Great Britain as she wanted to compete at the Olympics. There are a few tears since she now wears a different uniform but Anguilla is still behind her. She went on to break the British long jump records at the World Indoor Championships in 2012. That same year Anguilla got two half-days from work when she competed in the last Olympics. I was broken when she got injured and felt her pain. She has since redeemed and recovered not only in doing quite well in the Diamond League but she collected a beautiful silver medal in Beijing just last August in the 2015 World Athletics Championships. Not only that, she is now the first ever British (and Anguillan) woman to jump over 7 meters with the now British national record of 7.07m. Awesome stuff I say for the 27 year old.
Zharnel Hughes is no less talented, always laughing and ever growing taller each time I see him. I remember 2012 was a good year for him. Then only 17 years old, he got third and fourth in the 100m and 200m respectively at CARIFTA, gold and Championship records for both at the Leeward Island Junior Championship, gold in the 200m and silver in the 100m at CAC Junior Championships and a national record for Anguilla of 20.90 in the 200m at the World Junior Championships. Since then he has not slowed down literally. He was awarded a scholarship to attend the IAAF’s Regional High Performance Training Centre in Jamaica and since then has collected gold and a record at the Jamaica Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championships for the 100m, with a time of 10.12s once held by Yohan Blake. He also took gold in the 100m at both the Pan American Junior Championships and CARIFTA games in 2013. The following year he had another gold and Championship record in the 200m at the CAC Junior Championships. He was also commended for almost beating Usain Bolt.
Since July of this year and sharing the same sentiments as Shara he has gone on to represent Britain and so he did. He made it to the finals at the World Championships in Beijing coming in at 5th with a time of 20.02s in the 200m. What a guy and he is only 20 years old.
Anguilla is proud to support these two athletes that have managed to excel pass Anguilla’s ‘everything track’ at the JRWP with all other sports training simultaneously almost year round. It is hard to imagine things like this happening. It was great to see a ceremony held for them and many of our upcoming athletes were there to meet and talk with them.
Best wishes to you Shara Proctor and Zharnel Hughes and do not forget we need our days off for next year’s Olympics.
There are several races that takes places each yea here in Anguilla.