In 2017, World Under-18 semifinalist Reuben Nichols was one of three Saint Lucian boys recruited to study and join the powerful track and field team at Kingston College (KC) in Jamaica, following in the footsteps of St Catherine High School’s Julien Alfred.
Due to having joined the Champs powerhouse after the registration deadline, none of the three young Saint Lucians competed for KC last season. But their transfer was the subject of much discussion and led other schools to scout Saint Lucian talent.
One such school was Merlene Ottey High (MOH), a small school in western Jamaica, named after one of the island’s most outstanding athletes of all time. Led by Coach Garth Smythes, MOH turned its attention to a still-developing juvenile triple sprint champion.
Leon Alexander at the time attended Beanefield Secondary, under the tutelage of Phillip Anthony. At the club level, he worked with Dominican coach, Junior Thomas, winning the 80m, 150m, and 80m hurdles with Morne Stars at this year’s 14 and Under Championships.
In September, Alexander made his move to Jamaica, a difficult transition for the 14-year-old. That’s understandable having left behind his parents and twin sister Lea. But from all reports, Alexander has settled well and is training hard for the season ahead.
Coach Smythe said: “Things are progressing slowly, but we are making solid headway. He is however getting stronger. His school work is awesome. He is a good kid and I am very grateful to be working with him. Hopefully if he does well, we can recruit more from St Lucia.”
All schools in Jamaica are not equal. KC has a large and influential alumni community and is located in the nation’s capital. Schools like MOH are considered “country” schools by many. And their sports budget is nothing like KC’s.
Nevertheless, Smythes is looking forward to helping his school’s newest student-athlete make an impression in his first year at this level. As for Alexander, he lives with his coach and is thoroughly enjoying his stay in the Land of Wood and Water.
“This month [October] has been filled with mixed emotions,” said Alexander. “Jamaica is an attractive country, with the most breathtaking beaches and tourist attractions. I’ve been to places I never imagined going to. The food here is mouth-watering. My school days are going by alright. My friends and teachers at school are quite friendly and outgoing.”
He went on to say: “My training sessions have been quite tough, because I’m just adjusting to this type of training, but I’m up for the challenge. Everyone I’ve met so far is amiable and easy-going. My coach and his family are compassionate and fun. Jr [coach’s son and Leon’s roommate] is like a little brother I never had. We both find pleasure in playing. Though I miss my family, friends and classmates back home, my trip to Jamaica has been extraordinary and I love it here.”
Alexander looks forward to seeing his Morne Stars teammate, Reuben and the other KC boys, when the high school circuit starts in the New Year. He is also keeping one eye on the future and the possibility of following in the footsteps of close to 20 Morne Stars athletes including Alana Paul, Udoka Constantine, Kevin Norville, Darren Defreitas and Desran Desir in taking up university scholarships.