There has to be something said for being the best your country has ever produced.

For every personal milestone to be considered a ground-breaking moment for your land and for every step up the international ladder to be treated as a moment for major celebration are feats worthy of being honoured.

St Lucian high jumper Levern Spencer has had to deal with the expectations and thankfully admiration that comes with being her country’s best and often only hope when it comes to the sport of track and field.

At 36 years old, she is no doubt wrapping up what has been a noteworthy career and one that nobody else in her country can boast.

In 2018, Spencer won St Lucia’s biggest ever title, Gold at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.

She returned to Castries to a hero’s welcome, one reminiscent of those winning World and Olympic titles in other countries, such was the significance of what she had achieved, 56 years after St Lucia first graced the Commonwealth stage in Perth 1962.

“This is all I have sought to do for all my professional career,” she said after being taken amidst fanfare in a motorcade to Castries.

She explained that her life’s dream had been, “to place St Lucia on top of the world, and show, that despite our size, we can soar to great heights.”

St Lucia wasn’t exactly on top of the world, but in that moment it must have felt like it, since it was the highest they had ever been.

Spencer had given her island of just under two hundred thousand people, a taste of international glory three years prior when she won Gold at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada.

It is important to point out that Spencer’s two biggest titles came after the age of 30 but her impact on St Lucia’s athletics started when she was just 17 years old.

In 2001, at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Debrecen Hungary, Spencer leapt 1.81 metres to secure the bronze medal.

It remains their only medal at the event.

She dominated at the Central America and Caribbean, CAC, track and field Championships, winning the high jump on all six occasions she participated.

At the CAC Games, she won 3 of the 4 times, including at the 2018 edition in Barranquilla, Colombia.

She successfully defended her Pan Am Games title in 2019 and has also won two Commonwealth Games bronze medals to go with the 2018 Gold.

Her story is indeed one of perseverance which has culminated in triumph.

Despite all that however, Spencer and maybe St Lucia would be, if only a little, disappointed that she has not been able to cop a medal at the Olympic Games or senior World Championships.

At the Rio 2016 Olympics, she had her best shot, having finally reached a final.

She soared to a commendable 1.93 metres but it wasn’t enough as she had to settle for 6th.

And while she would have been disappointed, it was the best St Lucia had ever done at the Games and for today’s story that is the most important take-away.

And so, as Levern contemplates whether to give it one or two more attempts in the coming years, we say well done for what has already been achieved.

The way is paved and the next generation of St Lucian athletes have a marker for which to chase.

 The Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, the Honourable Olivia Grange, has expressed sadness at the recent passing of the Jamaican sprint pioneer, Isis Clarke-Reid.

Clarke, who was 100 years old, died at her home in Florida on Monday.

 “I am sad at the passing of Isis Clarke-Reid, an extraordinary woman who helped to lay the foundation for what Jamaica has achieved in track and field. I had received news of her failing health and had been making preparations to visit her overseas when the COVID crisis disrupted international travel,” Minister Grange said.

“Long before Shelly-Ann Frazer-Pryce, Veronica Campbell-Brown or Merlene Ottey, there was Isis Clarke, competing on dirt tracks; setting and breaking records; and helping to establish Jamaica as a serious competitor in the sport.”

Isis Clarke was a versatile athlete, competing in the 100 metres, the 200 metres and 80 metres low hurdles. 

She first represented Jamaica in international competition at the 1938 Central American and Caribbean Games held in Panama City. There, she, Gertrude Messam, Rhona Saunders and Beryl Delgado won the bronze medal in the 4x100 metres relay. At the 1946 CAC Games in Barranquilla, Colombia, Clarke was a member of the Jamaican team that won the silver medal in the 4x100 metres relay, running with Cynthia Thompson, Hyacinth Walters and Cynthia Llewlyn.

She was also a strong advocate for women in athletics, which she described as being ‘good for health’ in a 1938 newspaper quote.

“As a nation, we are grateful for the part that Isis Clarke-Reid, the ‘Champion Girl Sprinter’ played in Jamaica’s sports development.  We are thankful for her long life—100 years—and the inspiration that she has been and will continue to be,” Minister Grange said.

“I offer sincerest condolences to her family and friends.”

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