Mya-Jade Napoleon is no ordinary girl. At 14, she’s lighting the path set before her and she’s showing no signs of slowing down. A student of the Saint Lucia Sports Academy (formerly Gros Islet Secondary School) Mya, a track and field star, loves sports wholeheartedly and hopes to conquer the world eventually.
“I used to watch sports videos on YouTube when I was younger and I would tell myself I want to try this,” she said to me in an interview on Tuesday October 8.
She was a lovely student; her face lit up as soon as I met her and I liked her instantly. As we sat in her coach’s office, Mya-Jade told me all about her love for sports and her greatest aspirations, all while maintaining an innocent grin throughout.
“I was doing track and field in primary school(I attended the Morne Du Don Primary School), but then I lost interest in it. When I reached in form 1 at G.I.S.S., I said I would not do track and field again.Then, for Physical Education we had high jump for our practical and I was doing well; my interest came back,” she said.
She continued: “I’m always smiling after a race. When I do track and field it’s like releasing stress; it makes me feel calm and free. Right now I do high jump, long jump, 100 metres, 200 metres and I’m training so I could do 400 metres as well.”
Track and field, like many other things, comes with challenges, but Mya-Jade is determined to push through.
“Out of all of them, I love high jump the most. Sometimes it’s hard though because you need a lot of technique,” she revealed.
Even then, it’s worth it.
“When I’m going up, it feels great,” Mya-Jade said with a huge smile.
“I want to be a high jump coach in the future but apart from that I want to be a jumper like Levern Spencer,” she added.
The form 4 student has received a number of medals for her hard work. She has a strong support team behind her and one of her biggest supporters is her coach, Victor Cornibert.
“I try to sport for new talent in terms of track and field and I was scouting when she came in form 1, and the Physical Education teacher told me this child can jump; her jumping ability seems to be beyond normal, you know, what you’d expect in a form one child. I immediately took her in and started putting her through the ropes” her coach, who was also present, said.
“She was able to surpass the height that was set by a form 4 female student—we don’t really have female high jumpers coming to our school.We kind of have a male high jumping legacy. I think the height was like 1.45 and she was able to surpass that easily and I was like ‘ok this child has talent!’ She just took off in terms of her high jump career so I brought her down to national competitions to jump and she just exceeded my expectations; her best jump was 1.60,” the director for sports at the Saint Lucia Sports Academy added.
He was in for loads of surprises.
“I realized that she has a talent for long jump too. She took part in the long jump at the National Individual Championships last year; it’s an open championship so you compete against females who are 20, 25, plus, and she was able to get her best jump of 5.35 metres,” he said.
“Currently she’s shortlisted to undergo some specialized training in preparation for Carifta 2019 and 2020 so the hope is if she is able to go through with that training and come out with results, she will be representing Saint Lucia,” he added.
The coach encourages her to be the best version of herself even when she feels like throwing in the towel.
“There were a few times when she would complain andI made her understand that you cannot get to where you want to if you don’t work hard. It’s not going to be easy all the time. She has come a long way; she’s also a very good sprinter. I dare say she’s like maybe number 2 in her age group,” he said.
Later he listed some of Mya-Jade’s most noteworthy accomplishments.
According to the coach, “She has been taking part in the National Junior and Carifta trials from form 1; she’s been making podium finishes—every competition she medals. Independence Games; we have league challenge; she takes part in the National Individual Championships and the 14 and Under Games, the Juvenile Championships, and the Inter Schools Competition. She also did the 4×4 in the National Individual Championships this year.She started the race for her team and she gave them a good lead and they won.”
The director added:“She was also on the team for Bermuda for the Caribbean Union of Teachers Games last year but because of funding we could not take the team across again.”
Despite encountering obstacles, she continues to press on.
And now, the student can count her lucky stars as The Saint Lucia Sports Academy will mould athletes like Mya-Jade.
“The sports academy is actually providing them with the opportunity to develop their academics side by side with their specific sporting talent. One of the things that we provide them with is the opportunities for them to further their education so we make them do SATs and ACTs; that’s in the pipeline. They also have to do event planning, marketing, sports journalism, sports photography, audio visual production, coaching, physiotherapy and all these subjects,” he explained.
According to Victor Cornibert, athletes like Mya-Jade will undoubtedly have a better experience at the school.
“The whole idea is for them to be able to get a scholarship,” he added.
As for Mya-Jade? He wants her “to come to the level of an elite athlete”;he also wants her to “balance her academics because that’s very important.”
So far, Mya-Jade is proving that she’s more than capable and only time will tell how far she’ll reach.