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One On One
Sonita poised to join line of rural stars
HOLMWOOD TECHNICAL'S 400 metres ace, Sonita Sutherland, is poised to join the long line of outstanding track and field athletes to emerge from central Jamaica.
The greatest of all is Herb McKenley, but there have been several others including recent stars Veronica Campbell, Sandie Richards, Sherone Simpson and Usain Bolt.
Sutherland was born and grew up in a small district called Malton in Manchester, just a few miles from Troy, Trelawny, the town where Campbell went to school.
She had her early schooling at nearby Robins Hall All Age before going on to Holmwood at age 14 in 2001.
Coached by Maurice Wilson, the pint-sized high school star has shown phenomenal improvement over the past three years in the 400m, moving from a personal best 53.56 seconds down to 51.13 at the recent Boys and Girls Championships.
A silver medallist at the IAAF World Junior Championships in 2004, Sutherland pushed her school to their fourth straight national high school girls title last month. She then put the icing on the cake in her final year at high school with three outstanding relay legs as Holmwood won the 4x100m (44.56), 4x400m (3:36.98) and 4x800m (8:45.87) at the prestigious Penn Relays in Philadelphia at the weekend.
One-on-One caught up with Sutherland at the Norman Manley Airport, shortly after her school returned from the Penn Relays.
QUESTION: How were you introduced to track?
SONITA SUTHERLAND: At All Age school two teachers took us around to the different meets in the parish to compete. I remember their names as ?Miss Carter? and ?Mr Palmer.?
Q: What would you say is your greatest achievement to date in track and field?
SS: I would say winning the 400m silver medal at the 2004 IAAF World Junior Championships in Grossetto, Italy.
Q: The 2006 season has already been a successful one for you. Do you have any more goals for this season?
SS: I would really like to win gold in the 400m at the World Junior Championships, August 15-20 in Beijing, China and to break the 50.92 national junior record held by Sandie Richards since 1987.
Q: Overall what are your goals?
SS: I am looking forward to making the World Championships team next year and I would love to go on to the Olympics in 2008 and to win a medal.
Q: You have done the 400m hurdles and 800m over the past two or three years; will you be doing any of these events in the future?
SS: I did the 400m hurdles and 800m for my school at Girls Champs but I do not think I will be doing those events anymore.
Q: Do you have any role models?
SS: My coach Maurice Wilson, mother Jean Morgan and Olympic and World 400m champion Tonique Williams-Darling of the Bahamas.
Q: This is your last year at Holmwood; what will you miss most about school?
SS: At Holmwood it is not just about track and field. The girls are just one big, happy family and I am definitely going to miss that.
Q: Who are your best friends?
SS: Teammates Schillonie Calvert, Rosemarie White, Jerine Bolt and Debbie Ann Rose. We have a close relationship as we are all boarders in Christiana.
Q: Who is your favourite Jamaican athlete?
SS: Veronica Campbell.
Q: Who are your favourite international athletes?
SS: Sanya Richards, Jeremy Wariner and Williams-Darling.
Q: Have you been offered any overseas scholarships?
SS: Several, but I do not really have any interest. I will be staying in Jamaica with my coach at G.C. Foster College.
Q: What is your favourite movie?
SS: 'Love and Basketball'.
Q: What is your favourite dish?
SS: Rice and peas and curried goat.
- Elton Tucker