Much like his second cousin, Jerome Blake started out his sporting life in Jamaica as a cricket player.
And just like his famous relative—Olympic medalist and world champion Yohan Blake—Jerome has since shifted his athletic talents to sprinting.
Blake, who moved to Kelowna from Jamaica with his family last year, has quickly surfaced as one of the top young sprinters in Canada.
The Grade 12 student at Rutland Senior Secondary is ranked first among junior men in the country in the 100 metres (11.05 seconds), and second in Canada in the 200.
On Tuesday at the Apple Bowl, Blake, 18, brushed aside the competition to win the senior boys 100 and 200 metres at the Central Okanagan high school track and field championships.
Growing up in a country with a rich sprinting history, Blake has had his share of heroes, including multiple Olympic champion and world 100 record holder Usain Bolt.
Still, Blake points to his second cousin, Yohan—the world’s second fastest man—as his main inspiration to pursue a career on the track.
“Yohan is my idol,” said Jerome Blake. “When I tell most people I’m his cousin, they think well, ‘Jerome is fast because he’s related to Yohan’…but actually we both began as cricket players.
“So he left cricket for track and field, and now I’ve done the same,” Blake added. “I was really bad at first, but I’m getting better and now I’m really happy with how it’s been going.”
Blake had very little sprinting experience when he moved to Kelowna last year, but soon began honing his skills on the track with the Okanagan Athletics Club and head coach Pat Sima-Ledding.
With his natural ability, powerful physique and passion for the sport, Sima-Ledding said Blake’s potential is unlimited.
“He’s very easy to coach and he’s already made huge gains from a technical aspect,” said Sima-Ledding. “What’s encouraging is, he still has lots to work on and things to clean up, so he should only continue to improve. To be 18 and show the potential he has is incredibly exciting.”
Blake’s goal for this summer is to qualify for the national junior championships in July in St. Therese, Que.
But because he is not yet a Canadian citizen, Blake won’t be able to compete for his new country this year at international events. Still, the 18-year-old athlete has some definite goals for 2014.
“I know I can’t run for Canada this year, so my main aim is to try make Team B.C., do my best there and try work my way up to a scholarship,” he said. “Maybe some day I’ll have a chance to compete for Canada. But whatever country I’m in, I’m going to do track because I love the sport.”
Blake will be back on the track next Tuesday at the Apple Bowl, as Kelowna hosts the Okanagan Valley track and field championships.
For more on this week’s district track and field championships, see Friday’s issue of the Capital News.