For Kemarki Absalom of St. George’s College in Kingston, an unfortunate situation he experienced in March is a classic case of “sometimes when one door closes, another opens.” After he was locked out of the most highly competitive Jamaica high school athletics championships, the University of Texas took him in on scholarship.
Kimarki Absalom clears 2.06 meters at the Penn Relays.
The 19-year-old high jumper was one of many students who could not compete at last month’s Jamaica Boys and Girls Athletics Championships (Champs) in Kingston because their schools missed the application deadline. One month later this past weekend, Absalom competed at the Penn Relays in the US and won. His winning leap of 2.06m (6ft-9in) was slightly lower than his personal best of 2.10m but 1¼in higher than the next three rivals below him, who all cleared the same height of 2.03m (6ft-7¾in).
Not being allowed to participate at Champs was quite painful for the entire St. George’s team, but particularly Absalom and others, who are graduating this year and will not get a chance to compete at Champs again. For young athletes hoping to study abroad, Champs is one of two ideal major meets where athletes can showcase their talents to scouts who come from US colleges to recruit the island’s best for scholarships. The Penn Relays is the other.
But Absalom and his teammates had been competing at development meets at home during the season, were headed to the Penn Relays, and may have caught the eye of recruiters prior to Champs. So a few days after the initial shock, tears and distress, sports master Fernando Douglas and his athletes regrouped and resumed training with renewed spirits.
Though Absalom’s performance at the Penn Relays would make him visible to more scouts than it would in Jamaica, he went into the meet already secured a scholarship to the University of Texas at Arlington, where he’ll begin in September.
Not the typical tall, lanky jumper, Absalom, who represented Jamaica at the 2007 IAAF World Youth Championships in Ostrava, isn’t just about sports. He’s the Head Boy at St. George’s College, a student leadership position that requires excellent academic credentials, high moral standing, the ability to communicate well, and the involvement in extracurricular activities.
He will sit for biology, chemistry, information technology and sociology in the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE), a post-secondary education qualification, and he plans to pursue sports medicine and physical therapy while fulfilling his track scholarship requirements at Texas.
Absalom after winning the
high school boys high jump at the
Penn Relays last Saturday
For the next few weeks, Absalom will continue beating the books to complete his high school education, as well as training for the Jamaica senior track and field trials late June to compete for a spot on the team to the World Championships in July.
Both Coach Douglas and Absalom know the preparation task ahead. “Therefore, we will be doing some more work,” Douglas said, shortly after Absalom capped off his busy high school athletics season with the winning jump at the 117th Penn Relays Carnival.