Juantorena Inspires Team NSAF at #CSICuba17!

by Steve Underwood

Topped off with a rousing, inspirational, short-and-sweet talk from Cuban Olympic legend Alberto Juantorena, Team NSAF wrapped up another tremendous Caribbean Scholastic Invitational trip in Havana, May 24-29 – #CSICuba17.

After the final 4x400 relays had been run, Mr. Juantorena joined the 26-strong NSAF contingent – plus family, coaches, NSAF staff, etc. – at the behest of Tracy Sundlun, the NSAF board member who first met Juantorena during his historic 1976 Olympic 400-800 double. Sundlun and Juantorena together created the opportunity for CSI’s move to Cuba three years ago.

During the midst of his talk to the NSAF contingent, El Caballo pulled out one of his ’76 Montreal gold medals, looking as new as can be after nearly 41 years – and wowed all those gathered. Juantorena was accompanied by countrymen Javier Sotomayor – history’s only 8-foot high jumper (1993) and the 1992 gold medalist – and Anier Garcia, the 2000 110H gold medalist.

Meanwhile, Team NSAF again competed strongly in the Memorial Barrientos against the combination of junior and senior level athletes from 19 countries – picking up a lot of fine performances, including some victories.

NBNI pentathlon champs Kyle Garland and Anna Hall swept the junior multis, with Garland hitting a PR and US#1 6,959 and Hall not far off her PR at 4,796. Another male/female sweep came in the 1500, with both Dalton Hengst (3:54.90) and Krissy Gear (4:34.49) both showing off their kicks on the way to gold. Other NSAF champions included Kelcie Simmons in the 100 at 11.61 (Simmons also grabbed 3rd in the 200); Tyson Jones in the shot put (he also had the 2nd longest senior put in the shot put); and Eric Edwards in the 110H (13.52). Eric also PR’d in the 400H with a 52.68 fifth-place finish.

Some of the most outstanding non-winners included Gear coming back from the 1500 to win her 800 heat (PR 2:09.57); Brian Herron in the long sprints (2nd in the 400 at 46.7h, and 5th in the 200); Alexis Brown in the short sprints (11.64 for 3rd in the 100 after a 11.60 prelim); Veronica Fraley with 157-2 discus and 44-0.25 shot PRs; and Tiara McMinn with a pair of 3rds in the 100H (PR 13.67) and high jump.

Also competing well with near-PRs were Sterling Lester, Eric Allen, Tiondre Toomer, Jacory Patterson and Vivette Green in the sprints; Jared Briere, Gianna Rao and Jay Judge in the hammer; Jasmine Moore (42-4.75 TJ), Cameron Murray and Patterson in the horizontal jumps; De’Andreah Young in the 400H (59.94); Roman Mitchell and Cassie Jones in the javelin; and Anna Marian Block and Ian Delgado in the mid-distances.

Finally, Team NSAF finished it off in the relays, with a quartet of 3rd-place finishes (but first among juniors). It was Brown, Simmons, Moore and Green in the girls’ 4x1 (46.59); Lester (53.45), Young (55.37), Gear (58.27) and Block (57.63) in the girls’ 4x4 (3:44.77); Edwards, Herron, Murray and Patterson in the boys’ 4x1 (40.65); and Toomer (47.53), Patterson (47.35, Garland (49.57) and Herron (46.60) in the boys’ 4x4 (3:11.05).

The trip also was packed with touring Old Havana, an entertaining Opening Ceremonies, typically motivating presentations by NSAF sports psychologist Dr. Margaret Ottley and a little down time here and there at the Hotel Palco.

But in the end, El Caballo summed up #CSICuba17 when he said, “Commitment, discipline and determination, and good behavior – inside the track and outside the track” – words that one trusts that Team NSAF will take to heart. If El Caballo’s words stick, if the young athletes take what they learned in Cuba, and carry it forth into the rest of their prep careers and beyond, then an opportunity for the kind of shimmering gold medal he displayed is what is promised.

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