Dr Bruce remembers Champs experience as fun
IT has been 40 years since Excelsior High School (XLCR) last won the ISSA Girls' Athletics Championships, and by all indications, the Mountain View-based school does not appear set to do so anytime soon.
However, the school will be lifted by the legacy Dr Andrea Bruce and her generation left behind.
Her singular effort of three gold medals helped to inspire the school to their fourth consecutive title in 1973.
Dr Bruce, now a family physician at the Covington County Hospital in Mississippi, USA, won the Class One high jump with a record 5ft, 6 3/4 inches and the long jump also in a record 18ft, 8 3/4 inches. She then completed her triple gold performance by winning the Class One 100m hurdles in 15.4 seconds.
Those performances propelled XLCR to a record 141 points, well ahead of second-placed St Hilda's High with 62.5 and Mannings third with 56 points.
That same year, she was later named Jamaica's Sports Woman of the Year, as she did again in 1975.
"At the time we didn't really prepare. We just went out on talent. You run around for a couple of weeks and you said, Champs coming up. There was no real preparation in there. Most of the time we performed on talent, sheer talent. We were just talented," Dr Bruce told the Jamaica Observer via telephone from Mississippi.
"We didn't have hurdles. We didn't have high jump pits. We just went out on talent," she reiterated.
But winning three gold medals wasn't new to Dr Bruce, as a year earlier in 1972, she smashed the two jump records in Class Two and added the 80m hurdles to her trophy cabinet.
Dr Bruce, as a Class Two athlete, was selected to the Jamaican team to the 1972 Munich Olympics and actually reached the high jump final. At the time, it was not a big deal, but decades later, Dr Bruce cherishes every moment.
"I didn't quite understand it at that young age. I didn't understand the whole magnitude of the thing, so it was really under-appreciated," she revealed.
Following her exploits at Champs, Dr Bruce went overseas to the University of Maryland in pursuit of her medical career.
"At the time, Champs was a gateway to great things. It opens doors for you. It gave you a chance to go overseas to get an education," Dr Bruce added.
Being a family doctor with over 20 years' experience, Dr Bruce has been giving medical advice to a lot of people in the Covington Hospital, and she is happy to pass on so much to today's young student athletes.
"Make sure you get an education. The legs and everything will fail, but knowledge will prepare you for the future and it will never fail. Nothing can beat that. Fame and fortune will pass away, but education will always last forever. Once you have that, no one can take it away from you," urged Dr Bruce.
Dr Bruce, who last visited Jamaica in 2005 to attend her mother's funeral, was disappointed that she couldn't get a peep inside the National Stadium to witness arguably the greatest high school track and field event in the world.
"They wouldn't give me a free ticket and I couldn't get in. They didn't know me," she argued.