Raymond Graham, Sunday Gleaner Writer
ONE of the country's brightest track prospects, Omar McLeod, will leave the island this week to take up a track and field scholarship at the University of Arkansas. He will pursue a Bachelor's Degree in Business Management.
The former Manchester High athlete who spent his last year in school at Kingston College, had an outstanding 2013 at the North Street, Kingston-based institution as he recorded personal best times in the 110m and 400 metres hurdles.
At the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association Boys and Girls' Championships, McLeod ran National Junior records of 13.24 and 49.98 seconds in both events. He is the first local schoolboy to go under 50 seconds in the 400m hurdles.
McLeod, who was also a member of Kingston College's successful 4x100 metres relay team at "Champs" and the Penn Relays, also had individual success overseas. He was Under-20 champion in the 400m hurdles at the Carifta Games in The Bahamas and also at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia.
"The one year I spent at KC was the best decision I ever made in my life. The change of environment, the spectacular coaching, the push I got in training and the daily motivation I got from team members, coaches and management were all excellent," said McLeod who felt his performances at "Champs" were due to the quality work he had put in training.
"God is to be praised as he is the centre of my life and without him those performances would not have been possible," he added.
The young hurdler said he had come under some pressure to remain in Jamaica and become a professional athlete, but his mind had already been made up.
"In a sense it's almost as if I was being forced but that was not what I wanted. After listening to my coaches, family and my best friend Clive Pullen, I made my final decision," said McLeod. "I really did not want to rush into a professional career as I know it can be very tedious. Getting my college degree is my main goal as school comes first in my book because anything can happen in life ..." he continued.
McLeod, who was fourth in the 110m hurdles and eighth in the 400m hurdles at the World Youth Championships in 2011, will team up with his former teammate, Pullen at the university.