Continuing a tradition which started when the program was launched in 2011, the NSAF Project Triple Jump recently enjoyed its annual weekend of training and cultural enrichment in the Bahamas, Aug. 31-Sept. 3 – and was grateful to have done so before Hurricane Irma made its assault on the Caribbean, Florida and beyond.
The Project, with its current class of veterans and newcomers, was greeted in Nassau and the surrounding area – by its Bahamian Head Coach Peter Pratt and his family – with sunshine and good conditions for training at the national stadium, on the beach and in the ocean. Project Coordinator Macka Jones and NSAF Sports Psychologist Margaret Ottley guided the contingent which included the following: Seniors Saudia James-Heard (Curtis HS, WA) and Allyson Weiss (East Ridge HS, MN), and junior Marcus Floyd (Middleburg HS, FL) – all returning veterans – and newcomers India Turk (Howard HS, GA sophomore), Titiana Marsh (Thomas Dale HS, VA senior), Triston Delicema (Nashua North HS, NH junior), Nick Drayden (DeSoto HS, TX soph) and Ty Trinh (Loyola Blakefield HS, MD soph). India has actually been with the Project since late last year, but this was her first Bahamas trip.
“It was really a pleasure to see our kids bond with the kids from the Bahamas,” said Coach Macka. “The multicultural experience is beneficial to their progress as athletes. Most of them, when they first come here, have no idea how much privilege and luxury we have in the U.S. They saw that you don't need a lot of gadgets and multimillion-dollar facilities to produce quality athletes.”
Coach Macka was pleased with both the training effort and performance throughout the weekend, and the way both the older kids and younger kids responded. “Allyson and Marcus really stepped up in their new leadership roles,” he said, “and the new kids were able to adapt to the culture and environment just fine. They jumped right in and got to work.”
Coach Pratt is famed for taking what the environment gives you in terms of training “facilities.” So naturally, that leads to the somewhat exotic opportunity to do a variety of training on the beach and literally in the ocean – something many of the kids had never experienced before coming here. But it’s also utilizing something more mundane, such as the stout wooden posts in a nearby parking lot as training aids in particular drills. This all has long been part of what makes training here with Coach Pratt special and the athletes look forward to it every year.
It was, after all, a training foundation for many great athletes who have already come through this program – including 2016 Olympic triple jump 4th-place finisher Keturah Orji and KeAndre Bates, who have now won a combined eight NCAA horizontal jump titles at UGA and Florida, respectively.
“For my first time being in the Bahamas, I thought the trip was amazing,” said sophomore Ty Trinh. “Being able to see the ocean water and where Coach Pratt is from is something you don’t get to see often. So I enjoyed just looking at the view.
“Training was challenging but fun at the same time, and that’s how it should be,” he added. “I liked training on the beach because it’s like getting a two-for-one. Not only do you get a good beneficial workout, but you get to enjoy the sand and ocean water.”
“The biggest highlight was working out on the beach!” Coach Macka agreed. With a laugh, he added, “There was a moment when Titiana was afraid to go in the ocean because of the fish. Coach Pratt told her that any fish in the water would be more afraid of her!”
There was also an appreciation of the food and culture of the islands – especially the opportunity for new culinary experiences – and growing together with new teammates. The newcomers particularly are beginning to understand the short- and long-term benefits.
“Over the past few weeks I feel that from the training with the Project and at home have helped me become better. I’m not just getting stronger physically, but mentally as well,” said Ty.
The team is unquestionably gaining momentum that started with the Sioux Falls clinic last month. In less than two months now, the Project plans to reconvene at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida – where they last trained in Fall 2015 (pending any damages and subsequent recovery at IMG due to Hurricane Irma). At that point, the 2017-18 indoor season will be nearly at hand.
“We’ve grown a lot closer as a group since our camp in Sioux Falls,” said senior Allyson Weiss, “which I think will take us a long way as a team this season. It’s always fun spending time with the team, on and off the track. I’m looking forward to our trip to IMG Academy!”
Coach Macka couldn’t agree more. “The kids really came together this camp. This is a very young group, but their potential is tremendous! I’m really looking forward to our next camp.”