Now or never
After trying her hand at the heptathlon for the first time at last year’s Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA)/GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Athletic Championship, St Jago’s Leojai Hibbert has since grown fond of the multi-event competition and is now ready to finish what she started.
For Hibbert, the target is to significantly improve her eighth-place finish, as she seeks to close the high school chapter of her athletic career on a high at this 113th edition of the five-day spectacle scheduled for March 28 to April 1 at the National Stadium.
Still, the-18-year-old knows that medalling in one of the most demanding events is much easier said than done, but is banking on the experience under her belt to aid her ambitions.
“I am looking forward to having a successful championship; I have been seeing improvements and have achieved many personal bests in a few of my events so far, so I am very pleased with that and the goal is to build on those performances,” Hibbert told the Jamaica Observer.
“I hope to medal this time around and gain a scholarship so that I can further my studies so, of course, I have been working towards that and things have been going well. I am trying each day to train harder than I did the day before,” she added.
Hibbert, who was known for her sprint prowess from her days back at Vaz Preparatory, admitted that she was non-committal over whether she wanted to tackle the heptathlon, but eventually decided to give it a go as a means of challenging her range.
As she expected, it did indeed test her mettle.
“It was a bit challenging because I had to learn to do several other events that I had never done before, so that resulted in me going to development meets and doing an event for the first time and not performing as well as I would have wanted,” Hibbert shared.
“But overtime and I transitioned smoothly and was able to make the top eight at Champs and that was a big deal for me based on where I started from. So I proved to myself that with determination and a strong will to succeed, I am able to achieve anything I put my mind to,” she said.
Unlike athletes who specialise in a particular discipline, the training structure for heptathletes is much more diversified to cover all seven events, which is nothing to scuff at. However, Hibbert believes she now has the hang of it.
“Obviously, you try to do the technique for seven disciplines, so it is a lot of training. What I do is focus work on perfecting some of the techniques in the events that I fell short in last season, but you also have to ensure that you don’t lose form in your strong areas,” Hibbert noted.
“So, it is sort of combined to maximise picking up weaknesses, but not losing my strengths as well. It can be really stressful and there’s been a lot of pressure. Once I keep pretty much focused on what I’m trying to achieve, it’s not too bad,” the second year Class 1 athlete shared.
While there are mixed feelings about soaking up the Champs atmosphere for possibly the last time, Hibbert remains mindful of her objective — to make the podium.
“It is an amazing experience and you always want to make the most of it and just soak it all up. Champs is a very life-changing event and makes many athletes who they are, so yeah we [student-athletes] need to savour and enjoy the moment, but we are also there to accomplish something,” Hibbert reasoned.
“So for me, I just want to give it everything at the end and hopefully it will be good enough to win a medal and help my team to maintain our top-five finish as we have done at past championships,” she ended.