Surprised Twice by my record – Sherone Simpson

To this day, Sherone Simpson is surprised by the event of February 28, 2004, the day she set the Gibson-McCook Relays record in the women’s 100 metres. On one hand, she shocked herself with her winning time of 11.11 seconds. Now, 16 years later, she’s taken aback that the record has lasted so long. In 2004, she had just moved from Manchester High School to the University of Technology and the coaching of Stephen Francis. As the
Relays rolled around, she expected to run the 4×100 but Francis had other ideas. “Coach said no”, she recalled in 2020, “I want you to run the 100 and I was like, ‘coach, do you feel I’m ready?’, because I really want to run a good time. I didn’t want to go out there and (not) run a fast time and coach said, ‘yes man, you’re ready’.” He was right. Bubbling with the memory, Sherone remembered, “so I went out there and I ran the 100 and I was very surprised when I saw the time afterwards but I was very happy, just went to UTECH so that time was surprising to me.”

The new personal best replaced a mark – 11.37 seconds – she had set racing future Olympic colleague Kerron Stewart at Boys and Girls Championships the previous year. “Seeing that I had just gone to UTECH, coach Francis was just really working on my technique and my form so I mean it was pretty early in the season and I just went out there and I tried to execute as best as possible, you know, just try to remember
what I was doing in training and I think the race went pretty well.”

The Gibson-McCook landmark run made the 19 year-old Simpson believe she was ready for senior competition. “After seeing that time, and knowing that it was February, pretty early in the season, it really boosted my confidence”, Sherone recounted. “I remember just feeling so happy after that race and when I went back into training the Monday afterwards, I was very motivated and I think that race really helped me
going into the Trials for the Olympics and I think coach really wanted that for me, for me to have that confidence going in”, she continued.

Her 2004 season unfolded brilliantly thereafter. She accelerated her lifetime best to 11.01 seconds, made the Olympic team and finished sixth in the Olympic final in Athens, Greece. Then she ran the second leg on a 4×100 team that made history with Jamaica’s first Olympic gold medal in the event.

Four years later, with the 2006 Commonwealth 200 metre title safely tucked away, she took an Olympic silver medal in Beijing, China in the 100 metres. By then, her personal best was all the way down to 10.82 seconds.

Still, her surprise about her Gibson record still lingers. Candid as ever, the 35 year-old mother is amazed that the record is still on the books. “Very much so”, she confirmed. “We have so many young talented female athletes, and for the record to be standing for so long but especially for the Gibson Relays, a lot of the schools really focus on the relays and not more so on the individual events but I think pretty soon, the record will be gone”, she predicted.

Sherone’s MVP teammate Germaine Mason came to the 2004 Relays to build on a fine 2003 season and to prepare for the World Indoor Championships in Budapest, Hungary. Like Simpson, Mason set a record that still stands with a clearance of 2.24 metres. Then just 21,
the lanky jumper used that jump as a springboard to a bronze medal in Budapest but it came at a cost.

With the bar at 2.32, the height that secured the silver, Mason injured an ankle and had to retire. Fortunately, his first time success at 2.25 got him a share of the bronze medal. Unfortunately, the injury cost the 2003 Pan-American Games champion a chance to jump for Jamaica in the 2004 Olympics.

Even so, the he is Jamaica’s finest high jumper, having placed fifth in the 2003 World Championship final just a year after winning bronze at the World Junior Championships in Kingston. His winning height from the Pan-American games – 2.34 metres – remains the Jamaican national record.

Four years after his World Indoor injury, the Stephen Francis coached athlete won silver for Great Britain at the 2008 Olympics. Mason died tragically in a road accident in 2017 but his achievements at Gibson-McCook and internationally, makes him a target for a new generation of high jumpers. The current crop is led by 2014 World Under 20 high jump finalists Kristoff Bryan and Clayton Brown. Just months after Mason’s passing, Bryan won the NCAA outdoor title for Kansas State University.

With Brown more focused on the horizontal jumps at the University of Florida, it is Bryan who carries Jamaican hopes in the high jump for the foreseeable future. He stands at joint number 4 on the Jamaica all-time performance list at 2.24 metres, behind Mason and former KC star Desmond ‘Zele’ Morris who jumped 2.26 in 1983. Injury issues have kept Bryan off the high jump apron but if fit, he has the potential to fly in an event Jamaica often neglects.

The records by Simpson and Mason made February 28, 2004 extra special. Fans at that year’s staging of the Gibson Relays saw the start of a great career for Simpson and confirmation that Mason’s Pan-Am gold medal was no fluke. Remarkable success lay ahead for both of them.

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