Tue | May 23, 2017

No place like home - Extol wants to rediscover promise

Published:Sunday | March 8, 2015 | 3:00 AMDania Bogle
D'wayne Extol training at Wolmer's Boys last Thursday.
D'wayne Extol (left) in action for Wolmer's Boys at 2010 Boys and Girls' Championships.
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The last thing many Jamaican fans of athletics would have remembered of D'wayne Extol was his anchoring Wolmer's Boys School to a historic win in Champs 100 at the National Stadium in March 2010.

The sprinter recently returned to Jamaica after spending four years in the United States completing a bachelor's degree in electronic media and communications.

Now almost 24 and back in training with his high school coach, Christopher Harley, Extol, who closed out his high school career with a gold medal in the 400m and silver medals in the 4x400m, 200m, and 400m hurdles, said he felt the pull to come back to the things with which he is familiar and loves; Jamaican food, weather and people.

"I wasn't happy. There is no place like home ... that speaks true for me. Comfortable emotionally, and even spiritually, those are things that athletes need," he told The Sunday Gleaner.

While Extol had not planned on being a professional athlete after graduating high school, "for me, it was a means to an end".

"A scholarship because my mother wouldn't have been able to afford it," he continued, noting that things changed during his period abroad.

"There is this thing inside me ... this burning desire to represent my country at the senior level, and that's one of the reasons I came back home.

"I came back to better myself as an athlete. I believe I have the talent, the ability to go on to do great things. I had promise in high school and I believe being in Jamaica is the best place for an athlete to train," he said.

The oldest of four children, Extol earned a scholarship to the University of Alabama, where he spent two years but later transferred to Texas Tech University after a change of coaches at Alabama led to burnout as he fell victim to the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) system of athlete overwork.

"That broke my body down," he said. "It broke my spirit. It broke me emotionally. It was tough. I'm just glad I came out with no serious injuries and I'm back home and able to position myself in a place to reach the pinnacle where I left off."

Extol could have gone on to work with other coaches but felt a certain comfort with the coach who helped him achieve his best when he started off with little promise.

"I was never a great athlete. When I started high school, I got cut from the track team my first year and Mr Harley always encouraged me. He knows me better than coaches at the other clubs. He knows my background; he knows my family; he knows what I want. I'm not saying I wouldn't be comfortable anywhere else, but that remains to be seen."

Extol is now working on a strength programme but has not made a final decision on his speciality.

"I'm trying to get him back into shape so I know he can race. So, for now, I'm basically dealing with background. I want to make sure he is in a condition that he can really race and not get any injuries that will sideline him for a long period," Harley said.

"At the end of the season, we can analyse and say this is what we have to do for the coming year."