Photo: Leah Nugent finishes second to Ristananna Tracey in the women's 400m hurdles at the Supreme Ventures/JAAA National Senior Athletics Championships. Third was Kaliese Spencer.
Having travelled all the way from Abington Pennsylvania to Jamaica, there was only one thing on the mind of new kid on the block, Leah Nugent and that was a chance to become a Jamaican Olympian. For the 24 year old, it was mission accomplished after crossing the finish line second in a new life time best of 55.44 seconds over the 400m hurdles at the Supreme Ventures/JAAA National Senior Athletics Championships at the weekend.
“Definitely there is so much that I can improve on. To run 55.44 with so many errors, it’s just a blessings. To come away with such a fast time, I just can’t complain because I did what I came here to do,” she shared with Yardie Sports shortly after the finals.
With lot of persons asking who she was and where she was from, Nugent used the medium to explain what drove her to choose Jamaica as the place to represent, as she moves to build her senior career.
“It feels great to be on the team. My first time to an Olympics. My Dad is from Kingston. My whole family was here, before they moved to the states. But this is where my blood is and it feels great to be here to perform for this crowd and to make my family proud.”
The Edrick Floréal coached athlete, who trains at the University of Kentucky, Lexington said it wasn’t a hard a decision to choose between Jamaica and USA to ply her trade. The only daughter to Errol and Kim Nugent, actually credited her family roots and connections locally as one of the main catalysts that helped to decide where she would have settled.
“I always wanted to be an Olympian. I am from the USA, but I am from Jamaica as well. Both teams are the best in the world. So it wouldn’t have been easy either way. It was always in my heart to represent Jamaica though. My dad is from here. My grandad, grandma, cousins and uncles. So it was a blessing to have two choices and I am happy I chose Jamaica.”
Nugent was NCAA Bronze Medallist in the 400m hurdles in 2015, behind USA’s Shamier Little – who went on to win the bronze medal in that event at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, last summer. She is hoping to do the same for Jamaica, but explains that she will have a few things to work on time for Rio.
“I think I need to work on my execution. I have not been able to run a perfectly executed race, yet I am able to lower my PB every time. I will work on my pattern and just try to stick to that pattern in my races and if God want me to run a fast time in Rio it will happen. It's always good to run the fast times at the Olympics and not so much at the trials.”
The shoes of the nation’s two past Olympic Champions Deon Hemmings (1996) and Melaine Walker (2008) will not be easy to fill but Nugent says she is ready for the challenge.
“I have been watching Melaine and also the other great hurdlers since I was five years old. God has me here now and he put me in this position and I definitely will continue to represent the country well at the Olympics,” she vowed.
Nugent will join race winner Ristananna Tracey and the possibility of either Kaliese Spencer or Janieve Russell on Jamaica’s 400m hurdles team for the Rio Olympics.
Russell, who is Jamaica's leading female hurdler this season, missed the championships through injury but presented a medical exemption certificate and as such may still be considered for selection. Spencer finished third in the finals at the championships.