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Cameron tracks 'role model' Stephen Francis - Coach helping athletes balance education and sports at Mico

Published:Tuesday | September 15, 2015 | 12:00 AMDania Bogle
Bert Cameron (centre) with national athletes Javere Bell (left) and Javon Francis.

CITING MVP Track and Field Club head coach Stephen Francis as a role model, former 400 metres World champion Bert Cameron is blazing a new trail at the Mico University College.

He says helping athletes forge the link between education and sports led him to the Mico University College, where he started a new job as head coach of the institution's athletics programme on Monday.

The former Jamaica quarter-miler and the Marescaux Road-based institution, this summer, forged a partnership in which his club, Cameron Blazers, will work from Mico, with Cameron being head of its athletics programme.

"They're no more time wasters. When this thing is finished, the sports part, these girls and boys need something to fall back on, and I want to know I helped to set a foundation for them, so this is a blessing," Cameron, who is also director of athletics at Sts Peter and Paul Prep School, told The Gleaner.

Cameron, whose senior athletes used to train at the National Stadium, said finding a home of his own and working with intercollegiate athletes was important and something for which he admired Francis, whose club is based at the University of Technology.

"It's something Stephen Francis is doing. (He's) somebody I admire. If I am ever going to have a role model, then I think that is the way for many of these kids - let them know the value of an education, plus being an athlete.

"At least the student-athletes will be running for Mico, not just running track, and giving them the opportunity to get an education," he said, adding that Minister without Portfolio with Responsibility for Sport Natalie Neita-Headley had suggested the tertiary institution.

"The minister put the idea in my head. Mico is just down the road, and we pass it every day, and they do well in sports, but their track team is just not up there yet," he admitted.

Among the athletes who will be working with Cameron are World Junior 400m hurdles and Youth Olympic Games 100m hurdles winner, Jaheel Hyde; 2013 World Championships 4x400m relay silver medallist, Javere Bell; World Youth 400m bronze medallist, Tiffany James, formerly of Papine High; Girls' Championships 400m Class One champion, Dawnalee Loney, formerly of Balaclava and Camperdown High; and St Jago's 2015 Girls Champs 400m hurdles winner, Genekee Leith.

Hyde, who turned professional earlier this year, is a registered student of the University of the West Indies, Mona.

Cameron said while Hyde continues to work with his hurdles coach from Wolmer's Boys' School, Christopher Harley, a decision had not yet been made as to what event the versatile athlete would finally settle on.

However, he said the 18-year-old was interested in competing at next year's World Junior Championships in Kazan, Russia.

Mico's Director of Sports, Raymond Graham, said he had a good relationship with Cameron, with whom he worked closely while they both worked at St Jago High School in St Catherine - Graham as coach of the girls' team and Cameron coach of the boys'.

"Right now, all the sports at Mico are doing well, and track and field is my baby, and we're not doing well," said Graham.

"I was hesitant because sometimes everybody wants something for themselves. He didn't have a place for himself. Both parties will be helped, and we will be a force in intercollegiate sports. His (Cameron) name alone will inspire the students at Mico," he added.

Cameron replaced former coach Michael Russell, who also worked with Graham at both coach's alma mater, Kingston College.

"It's a new direction. He's a (Russell) good friend, but in life ... we have to make decisions, and we parted ways amicably. It wasn't anything personal. It wasn't working, and we need fresh ideas."