8 Central Arizona College track & field athletes vying for chance to compete in Beijing Olympics
June 27, 2008
PINAL COUNTY, Ariz. – When the flags of the nations representing Jamaica, Grenada and Trinidad pass the center grand stands during the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, don’t be surprised if some of those athletes are donning Central Arizona College Vaquero and Vaquera t-shirts under their official warm-up gear.
On August 8 the games begin on the opposite side of the world with the potential of eight former or current Central Arizona College track and field athletes competing for Olympic medals.
Locked for spots on their nation’s teams are Jason Morgan and Maurice Smith who will represent Jamaica. Morgan is a powerful discus thrower while Smith will compete in maybe the toughest sport of the entire Olympiad – the 10-event decathlon.
Last year Smith finished second at the World Championships in the same grueling event that landed gold medalist Bruce Jenner on the cover of a Wheaties box following the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
Six others with athletic roots grown in Pinal County could join Smith and Morgan in Beijing not as teammates, but as rivals from neighboring Caribbean countries.
Grenada’s Olympic team could have five Central Arizona College track and field athletes jumping on airplanes for China in early August.
Sherry Fletcher is a leading candidate to compete in the 100-meter dash and could become part of the 4x100 relay squad. She is the most recent Olympic hopeful to compete for Central Arizona College after leading the Vaqueras to a national championship this past season.
The women’s 4x400 could feature a pair of Vaqueras in Hazel Ann Regis and Neisha Bernard Thomas. Regis is also vying for a spot on the 400-meter squad while Thomas is making a bid for the mid-distance 800-meter event.
Patricia Sylvester’s outstanding leaping ability could land the Vaquera in two field events for the Grenada women – the triple jump and the long jump.
Fighting for a spot on the Grenada’s men’s team is Joel Phillip who could participate in the 400 meters and make the team as a member of the 4x400 relay squad.
Central Arizona College also could be represented on the Trinidad & Tobago Olympic team as Vaquera Karla Hope is battling for participation in three events – the 400 meters, the 4x100 relay and the 4x400 relay.
Since 1996, Central Arizona College’s men’s and women’s track and field teams have combined to capture nine National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Championships, including six over the last four years.
The Vaqueras have won three straight titles (2006-08) after claiming their first two in 1998 and 1999, while the men won their initial crown in 1996 before taking three in a row from 2005-07. This year the men finished second in the nation.
As an athletic program, Central Arizona College has captured 34 national championships, including 32 NJCAA Division I titles and two nationally rodeo crowns.