Photo: Merrecia James (in purple) competing in the Women's 800m finals at the National Senior Championships inside the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica recently.
Merrecia James is a blast from the past, a Jamaican talent that many people will not remember. Most are not even aware that she piloted female distance running for a few years, shortly before the golden era of Usain Bolt and company.
James hails from the parish of Portland and attended Port Antonio High where she first took on the sport of track and field, but circumstances she revealed, prevented her moment of glory at the annual Boys and Girls Championships.
“I was a standout in the Eastern Champs but due to the fact that I didn’t have a high school coach throughout most of my years of high school, I didn’t get the opportunity to compete in Boys and Girls Champs because there was no one to register me," she revealed.
Things would have gotten a little brighter for her in her final year of eligibility and that is when she began to see the light.
“In my last year of high school I finally got a coach…who came from GC Foster and he helped me to get to the Annual Boys and Girls Champs. I competed in the 3000m and finish 3rd place… and was awarded a scholarship to GC Foster College," she recalled
From GC Foster College she moved to the USA on a scholarship and started competing for the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
“In College I was a standout in the Mid Eastern Athletic Championships (MEAC) and held many school records and qualified for and competed at the NCAA Regional and National Championships. I ended my college career with a false start in the 800m at the NCAA Regional Champs… I knew this was to be continued,” she revealed
The thirty year old James, who currently resides and trains in USA, was a bronze medalist at the North American Central American Caribbean (NACAC) cross country meet in 2004 and represented the black green and gold in 2005 the World Half Marathon Championships in Edmonton, Canada and in 2006 the World Cross Country Championships in Fukuoka,Japan. She also finished 2nd for Jamaica at the CAC Reggae Half Marathon in a time of 1.28;08.
"I always had a dream to represent my country and I was very determined to do so… I would say that attending GC Foster was part of my success I had guided coaching sessions and many teammates who had similar goals like mine and who motivated me a lot."
The continuation is now in full effect. Although she walked away from the scene in 2009 Morris never lost interest in the sport, so she decided to use her athletic abilities to make a difference and aspire to achieve her dream of qualifying for the 2020 Olympics.
“In 2008, I suffered bursitis to the left knee and struggled a lot, but I managed to pull through to retain my scholarship for the remaining years. My fellow teammates Mardrea Hyman encouraged me to come and train with her after college but due to the injury I was unable to so. I decided to focus on a career path away from track and field and then return to the running once I was well. However, I wouldn’t say I gave up on the sport, but I wasn’t able to run anymore without feeling pain,” James explained.
Fast foward to 2016 season and Merrecia James is back on the track. She told Yardie Sports that she returned to the track in 2015 and aims to start a new chapter in life and a more spiritual inspiration.
“I was inspired to run again after receiving a vision with Jesus Christ running next to me in my dream. After some deep pondering about what my mission on earth should be I decided to start training again and would consider this journey to be a more spiritual path for me.”
She finished 7th in 800m at the recently concluded national trials in 2:11.33 seconds, but nonetheless was satisfied with that performance.
“I was satisfied with the result due to the fact that I wasn’t sure if I would be able to compete at the trials. A week before the National Trials I came down with a virus and was unable to even stand up, however, it was my faith that kept me going and the courage to know that I can only do my best… with my training I am in much better shape than 2.11… I opened my last year season in March with a 2.08 at the Colonial Relays and ended in a season best of 2.07."
When quizzed about her choice of 800m as opposed to the 1500m or 3000m distances that she was more known for, she revealed that its all a part of a personal challenge.
“The 800m is considered one of the most challenging events to run and with my age I feel I would like to take on that challenge with faith. I want to change the stigma of getting older and slower and that one should move up in distance. I have done better in the 800m throughout college years and I am convinced that I can do better.”
Her national representation was also in the 800/1500, so for her it is a return to familiar territory.
“My best time in the 1500m is 4.32 and I have done much better in the 800m, qualifying and competing at the NCAA Championships throughout my years in college. However, the cross country and 5000m running helps with my strength work for a better 800m time”
James also revealed that she has good company for training and it should help to get her where she desires to be.
“I started training with the Districk Track Club located in Washington DC last October and I am currently training with coach Matthew Centrowiz along with my training partner, Myah Hicks.”
Chief among the reason for returning, is to raise consciousness amongst Jamaicans and worldwide and so far the journey for her as been a rewarding one.
“The journey has been a struggle and a reward in itself…. First I have to start with mastering myself .. then that example will help others…I started to see a shift in my family as well as my close friends and it will continue to expand to my community and then the nation and eventually the world… but everything takes time.My motto is -what matters is your mind!”
It's not necessarily the glamour of the track and winning the medals, running mean so much more to her now than then.
“Often times one sets limits with money and many other things to reach their goals in life, but I was inspired through yoga to share my message of consciousness, through music and my book and in the long term for it to manifest through my running,” she explained.
As the journey continues, James is being a realist and for her the target is 2020, the next Olympics, joining accomplishments of that of National champion Natoya Goule and Kenia Sinclair.
“I see myself progressing very well. After being out of the sport for nine years, it's like starting all over again and last year I came back running 2.09, this year 2.07, as time progresses I will continue to shave off those seconds to get to the qualifying mark which is very realistic to prepare for another three years," she added.
The National Champions past and present have helped to inspire her journey thus far.
“I am very inspired by my fellow colleagues Natoya and Kenia and I know that we can see many other Jamaicans in the event and even longer distances but I feel more support is needed for our fellow Jamaicans” she suggested.