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Coach Carr has high hopes for star sprinter

Published:Saturday | August 30, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Jonielle Smith of Wolmer's Girls with her coach, Michael Carr, after she won the Class One Girls 200 metres final at this year's ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Championships. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

Hubert Lawrence, Gleaner Writer

Carifta 100 metres champion Jonielle Smith is a fine prospect for the future. One person who feels that way is Michael Carr, her coach of the past six years. Now in his 26th year of coaching at Wolmer's Girls, Carr feels that Smith could go all the way.

"I think that Jonielle is one of those who can go the distance," he said with conviction. "I'm not saying that she will go," he continued, "but she has the potential to go all the way."

"One, she's very ambitious," he recounted. "Two, she's determined, and three, she wants to use track and field to make a difference, not only in her life, but in the life of others."

He disclosed that Smith plans to build a sports complex that will provide all services athletes need, including medical care and physiotherapy.

Despite having a nearly flawless season, Smith left for Auburn, even though she could run for Wolmer's next year. Carr agrees with her early move.

"She went off because she believed that the time was right," he said.

She came into 2014 on the heels of a Boys and Girls' Championships Class Two sprint double and debuted in Class One this year with a bang. Second to the outstanding Christania Williams in the 100m, the Wolmerian ran 23.36 seconds in the 200 semis and duly won the final. A month later in Martinique, she took the Carifta Under-20 100m title.


Sadly, she aggravated an injury on the eve of the World Junior Championships.

Unplaced in the primary school championships 100 metres in her last year at that level, Smith is a late bloomer who turned the corner in 2011. In that season, she won two silver medals at the Carifta Games in Montego Bay.

"It was a year that opened her eyes," said the veteran coach, "and also, it gave her a lot more self-confidence."

"She worked and worked and worked to where she is now," he said, "to become the Caribbean's number one sprinter."

The 18-year-old had many choices, but coach Carr explained why she chose Auburn and Bahamian sprint guru Henry Rolle.

"The coach has been there for a number of years," he reasoned, " and he has been producing, and the stability helped me to encourage her to go to Auburn."

Among Rolle's successes is Jamaica's Kerron Stewart. With Rolle's guidance, Stewart won NCAA Division titles at 60 and 200 metres as a college athlete and Olympic and World silver medals in the 100 metres in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

Smith often trained at Wolmer's with Carr's other sprint star, Shauna Helps, who has won the 100m at Champs in Class Two, Three, and Four, and Carr expects Helps to do very well in Class One.

"I, at this point, am very optimistic about what Shauna will do at Champs next year." He described her as a little bit more mature now and said: "With this being her last year, I expect her to come to the fore again."

Hubert Lawrence has scrutinised athletics since 1980.