In recent times, one of the hottest topics being discussed in Jamaican High school track and field, is the middle and long distance events with special focus on the athletes who will compete in those disciplines at the 2017 edition of the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championships (Champs).
Two of the most eagerly anticipated showdowns will come in the Boys’ Class 1 800m and 1500m.
Several quality athletes will be assembled in both events at the National Stadium, however, one man – Ackeen Colley – is meticulously planning to etch his name in the history books and leave a lasting legacy.
Born in the parish of St. Elizabeth and now living in Hanover, the emerging Rusea’s High star only took running seriously in 2016 based on a suggestion by his current coach. “I came to Rusea’s in 6th form and I always had a love for track and field. My coach, who I rate as one of the best in western Jamaica, encouraged me and started working with me.”
The 18 year-old showed his class at the Gibson/McCook relays winning the exciting 1-mile event in 4:15.34, turning back the challenge of much more heralded runners including the red hot favourite Ugandan Arymanya Rodgers of Kingston College (4:15.48). Colley, despite his relative inexperience, was not daunted by the opposition. “I was never too concerned about the big names because I’m a big name athlete myself, so I don’t see why I should give them any special attention.”
A few days later at the CARIFTA trials, Colley collared the opposition winning the unique 800m/1500m double in the U20 division. He won the 800m in 1:52.11 and the 1500m in 3:54.50 and expressed delight at his times, as well as making his first Jamaica CARIFTA team. “Well it is really a great feeling; I’m overwhelmed to make the Jamaican team,” said Colley with a broad smile on his face.
“I knew I was going to win. I did it for my coach, my school, my mother, my classmates and my community. Everyone is happy for me. I was confident in my abilities, I didn’t really come here to compete; I came to show my class and dominate.”
Fast forward to the G.C Foster Classics Digicel Grand Prix finals where Colley left no doubt in the minds of onlookers that his successes so far did not come by happenstance. In what is arguably his greatest 800m race to date, Colley languishing in 5th position at the 200m mark, some 20 metres behind leaders Leon Clarke and Tyrese Reid on the final lap, pulled off an improbable victory in 1:52.80. Many Jamaican track fans have rarely seen such a huge deficit being erased against quality opposition and were left in awe by the tenacious spirit shown by the young man who at one stage was written off like a bad debt.
Colley admitted afterwards that things did not go according to plan in the first lap. “After CARIFTA trials, I trained very hard in the evenings all week and today I felt tired which is why I was at the back of the pack, but I knew I have the ability to win the race.”
One of his commendable features is that he possesses the CDH qualities required of many track and field athletes – “Confidence, Determination and Humility”.
The tall, long striding runner with deceptive speed, who says Kenya’s David Rudisha is his role model, loves to eat yam, banana, cocoyam and dasheen. He feels eating these foods and staying healthy contributes to his success.
Colley does not focus all his attention on track and field matters and uses the time outside of training and competition to get acquainted with things that excites him. “I love the sciences; I’m always reading science books and paying attention to new discoveries, that’s what I enjoy doing. After finishing high school, I’d like to pursue a career in medicine.”
He sets very high standards and goes after targets with steely determination. He already has plans for the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Championships at the National Stadium and CARIFTA games in Curacao.
“I know I can go much faster, you can expect great things from me at Champs and CARIFTA. I’m going up against strong competition but you can look out for me winning the gold in both events and I’m going to make Jamaica proud of me.”