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Jaeda Grant determined to fulfil athletics potential

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Jaeda Grant strolling to victory in the Bermuda Juniors X-Country Championship
Proud family: Young athlete Jaeda Grant with mother Chantal and father Jonathan
Another win: Jaeda Grant wins Labour Day Race Juniors (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Jaeda Grant may not yet be a household name in the manner of Bermuda’s pre-eminent female athlete Dame Flora Duffy, but the teenage distance runner has demonstrated a talent that may well grow to rival that of the the Island’s lone Olympic gold medal-winner.

The 14-year-old Saltus student/athlete is steadily building her own cache of hardware, with a silver medal at this year’s Carifta Games in Jamaica as part of the Under-17 girls 4x400 metres relay team her most significant capture to date.

Considering she was aged just 13 and barely qualified for the competition, which has a minimum age requirement that stipulates athletes be within the window of their 14th year, together with the fact that she competes more at middle distances - 800 metres to 3,000 metres - added glow to the accomplishment.

Ahead of the Caribbean competition, Grant had outstripped all competition at the Speed Classic South Florida Invitational, where she shattered three meet records with personal-best times on the way to winning gold in the 800m, 1,500m and 3,000m at the Ansin Sports Complex in Miramar.

Back home: Carifta medal-winners Ellise Dickinson, left, S’Nya Cumbermack, Jaeda Grant and Shayla Cann(Photograph by Akil Simmons)

In August, at the Russell E Blunt East Coast Invitational Track Meet, she just missed out on winning the outstanding athlete prize in the 13-14 girls division after seizing three more golds at similar distances.

“The East Coast, going into it, I had a running camp before that, where I learned a lot of skills,” explained Grant, who hails from Sandys Parish. “So I wasn’t too nervous when I got to the East Coast meet and felt really strong and was able to do well.”

The Front Street Mile, Labour Day Road Race, and a myriad of track and cross country wins count among the many conquests of the burgeoning star, although a not-so spectacular showing during an initial foray into the Carifta Aquathlon - swim and run - exposed a measure of mortality in the youngster.

“The aquathlon was a good experience but the hardest part was swimming through the waves and then coming out and transitioning to the run,” said Grant. “Because your legs are tired and when you first start running it’s like they’re still in swim motion and you have to put them in run motion.”

A natural runner, Grant likely owes a degree of her talent to her father Jonathan, who starred as a schoolboy track and field athlete, beginning at West End Primary. As the younger of two siblings, she was also drawn to the sport after observing her brother Jaelen.

“My brother used to do it, so when I became of eligible age to start track running I began doing it,” said Grant. “I started with a small track group and as I got better I went to a better one that could teach me more and help to improve my skills.”

That latter organisation was Pacers Track Club, where she remains while continuing to train and compete under the watchful gaze of champion distance runner Jay Donawa, a former Marathon Derby winner.

“What I like about Pacers is that they encourage all of the kids and don’t treat anyone better than anyone else,” said Grant of her affinity for her home town club. “They help you better your skills at running and they put you in groups according to what you’re good at. So, if you’re good at long distance they would put you in the long distance group at a certain age.

“They also go on trips overseas, so you get the experience of running in other countries with different athletes and that can help you to improve your times. My coach teaches me how to maintain the right mindset and always gives me encouragement before my races. He never wants me to go into a race feeling too anxious or upset.”

Asked about her preference for the longer distances, which require a greater amount of endurance versus the speed and flashiness of the sprints, Grant highlighted her ability to vary pace and strategy, as well as the scenery cross-country offers as attractions for her.

“I don’t really remember when I decided that I liked longer distances more but I always liked to run cross country, being able to run around different parts of the Island and experience different courses and terrain,” she said. “I feel like running shorter distances is harder because you have to be quick in a short amount of time, while in the longer distances you only have to be quick at different times of the race.

“Like, at the beginning you can be quick and keep the pace or you can pace yourself early and be quicker at the end. When I go into races I try to plan out my start and my finish and as my pace changes, I gauge how I intend to finish.

“The finish is my favourite and strongest part, not because it’s the end, but I’m able to go really fast at the finish, which I find fun, especially with everyone cheering. It’s fun, it’s my hobby and it helps me to stay fit as well.”

While middle-distance running may be merely an enjoyable mode of recreation for most, in the case of Grant it will likely also provide means if she remains on the present trajectory, with offers of college scholarships more than likely and competition on the junior and senior world stages also beckoning.

“I believe that if I continue with my running and can better my skills then I can continue on to college and possibly have it as a job,” she said. “One of my goals is to at least place in Carifta and, when I get older, go to the Olympics.”

Competing at the Olympics would allow Grant to follow in the footsteps of a woman she greatly admires, with the teenager having studied Duffy’s rise from a mere member of triathlon fields to that of the world’s premier talent in the sport.

“One of my idols is Flora Duffy,” said Grant. “She doesn’t do track and field but when I watched her at the triathlon, she did a really good job. She’s one who didn’t start out as the best in the triathlon, but she worked hard and got better and now she makes it look so easy, which gives me motivation to do better.”

Nevertheless, Grant has not been able to achieve success on her own as her parents can always be found at all of her competitions both home and abroad, something which she very much appreciates.

“They come on the overseas running trips with me,” she said. “They cheer me on and invite other family members to come out and support me as well. They really motivate me to want to get better.”

Duly proud of her daughter, mother Chantal said that she and her husband provide as much support as they can for both Jaeda and Jaelen, the latter a part of Somerset Cricket Club’s youth football programme.

“She’s good at what she does and then the fact that she enjoys it means I like to support her because she enjoys it so much,” said Chantal Grant, a banking executive. “Hopefully she continues on the path of doing well in the sport and I’ll encourage her every step of the way.

“She started doing well at primary school, so we put her in a small group where she began to flourish and continue to improve and get better. Seeing that she has continued to improve and loves running, I want to keep her on the path of doing it.”

“I hope that she carries on in the sport and is able to rise to university level and continue on to wherever that takes her

Father Jonathan echoed the sentiments.

He said: “As long as she can do it and gives it her best effort, I’m happy with that and I believe she’s in a good environment at Pacers. I ran with Pacers previously, which was when you had to be invited, you couldn’t just sign up like they do today.

“I dabbled in several track and field disciplines. I did them all, even the long jump. I was mainly a sprinter, but I could compete all the way up to the 800.”

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Published January 06, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated January 07, 2023 at 12:01 pm)

Jaeda Grant determined to fulfil athletics potential

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