Horton honoured to be speaker for Pacers
House speaker Randy Horton felt extra pride in being asked to be the guest speaker at Saturday's Bermuda Pacers Track Club's inaugural Hall of Fame reception ... he knows four of the seven inductees personally as former students at Warwick Secondary School where he was once principal.
Horton knows of the honour, too, that comes with being a Hall of Fame inductee as he was one of the first ten inducted into the Bermuda Hall of Fame in 2004 for his achievements as both a footballer and cricketer.
This time, the Pacers honoured seven of their own, including Devon Bean, Brian Wellman, Jay Donawa and Kavin Smith, who all attended Warwick Secondary. They went on to become some of the island's top track and field athletes in various disciplines and at the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club they received their plaudits along with Leslie Rookes, Terry Lynn Paynter and Terrance Armstrong.
“You just heard of my connection to Warwick Sec, and when I saw the names of the people who were going to be honoured today it was easy, real easy,” said Horton, a former sports minister. “To me it is always important to uplift and celebrate the achievements of our young people and I don't think we do enough of that in our country.
“I'd like to commend the Pacers Club on holding this inaugural event and highlighting the positive impact that you, as a track club, have on young people and what those young people have on their community.
“There is certainly, I believe, significant evidence that shows the work that the Pacers are doing to uplift and to see that we have positive things happening in our community.”
Horton added: “What is a Hall of Fame? I'm blessed to have been inducted into Bermuda's first Hall of Fame, also a Rhode Island Scholar Athlete Hall of Fame and so I ask what is a Hall of Fame?
“A Hall of Fame is a group of individuals in a particular category such as a sport, in this case athletics, who have been selected as particularly illustrious.
“The bios of all of you young people who are being placed in this Hall of Fame certainly indicates that you are indeed illustrious. What it also does is honours the struggle, the perseverance and the achievement of the athletes, and encourages and supports the legacy of these people as they move on in our community.
“These young people have demonstrated unwavering persistence. A champion must have persistence to excel in his performances, all of you guys know that being a champion never comes easy.
“I've been there, I know that. It gets rough but you have to pass through the roughness. climb over the hurdles and believe you can get through it.
“Muhammad Ali said: ‘I have every minute of training, but I said don't quit, suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion'. That's what he did and that's what great athletes do, they go through the pain. Self-confidence, I believe, is the number one mental skill that championship athletes possess. You must believe that you can.”
Horton also referred to Roger Bannister, the first man to run a sub-four minute mile, when few thought it was possible. “Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile barrier in 1954 when almost 50 journalists and researchers said that breaking the four-minute mile was humanly impossible,” Horton said. “Bannister broke the barrier and one-and-a-half years later you had over 40 people who had broken the four-minute barrier. Why? Because now they believed they could do it!”
The inductees all enjoyed success both here and abroad, Smith going on to win nine Bermuda Day Half-Marathon titles between 1993 and 2003, Wellman five Bermuda Athlete of the Year awards and ranked one of the top ten triple jumpers in the world on seven occasions between 1992 and 2001. Wellman is also a four-time Olympian, with best finishes of fifth in 1992 and sixth in 1996, with jumps of 17.16 and 17.10 metres.
Donawa is an 11-time Bermuda National Cross Country champion. Bean, a past Olympian who is now the director of athletics for the Bermuda National Athletics Association, is still the only Bermudian to be inducted into the East Coast Invitational Gold Medal Hall of Fame, an honour he received in 1993.
Rookes and Paynter won medals at the Carifta Games in the discus, shot and javelin while Paynter also won a silver medal in the javelin at the CAC Games in Colombia in 1993. In 1986 Rookes broke Sonya Smith's six-year interschool sports shot put record (13.15 metres) and tied the discus record of 35.33 metres.
All the athletes gave credit to former coaches, including Cal Simons, of the Pacers, who coached them during their early years with the club.
“As a child, of course, it is always fun to do things that you are good at, but it takes guidance at the right time to realise your full potential,” wrote Terrance Armstrong who lives in the United States and could not attend. His father Ed, received his award on his behalf.
“Coach Cal Simons and the Pacers provided that extra guidance that I needed. My enrolment with the Pacers opened doors I never thought were possible, through the exposure that was presented to me at such an early stage in my running career.”
Said Bean: “Mr Simons always told me ‘Devon, you're a good football player but you're going to be much better in track'. Mr Simons believed in me when I didn't believe in myself. I could always call on him, we've had long talks about life in general.
“I can't say enough about this gentleman who laid the foundation for the man who stands before you. Another gentleman in this room who I owe a great gratitude to is Mr Gerry Swan [former national coach]. Together with my father, these three men kept me on the right path.”
Donawa had the audience laughing when he revealed how he raised sponsorship money to go on Pacers trips. “I learnt to go down to Somerset Cricket Club on a Friday afternoon around 6.30 when everybody's had a few drinks and you'll get all the sponsorship you need,” he joked.
“I learnt that very early, on the first night I think I garnered about $470! To travel with the Pacers between 1983 and ‘89 was during my developmental years when I realised there were two things I wanted to be in life, a runner and a firefighter. I'm doing both.”
Rookes credits former national coach Clive Longe for spotting her throwing talent as a student at Paget Primary. “He was so behind me, but every training I had to throw 250 throws,” she recalled.
“Doing discus and shot, when you're at training it's very lonely time. My life with the Pacers gave me the foundation and my independence too. I'm very honoured, humbly, to be in line with such great people. This is truly an honour.”
Said Smith: “It's been great, the running was my résumé, literally, at the Bermuda Telephone Company.
“I made a commitment that May 24 would be synonymous with my name and that's what I wanted to go out with.”