‘I WANTED TO QUIT!’
Cometh the hour, cometh the woman!
ROSWELL...a former coach told me he wasn’t going to coach me because I’m not a ‘star’
Sprint hurdler Roswell shakes off snub to post ‘massive’ 12.44 seconds

LAST weekend’s victory in the 100m hurdles finals at the NCAA Big 12 Conference Outdoors Championships at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, by Demisha Roswell of Texas Tech came as a big surprise to many.

The former Vere Technical and New Mexico Junior College runner ran a massive personal best of 12.44 seconds (1.5m/s), fourth-best ever by a Jamaican, second in the world this year, and extending her Texas Tech programme record.

She also surprised race favourite and compatriot Ackera Nugent of Baylor University who repeated her second-place finish from last year but also recorded a big personal best of 12.45 seconds.

Surprising doubters has become a way of life for Roswell who managed to stay under the radar for most of her career and who has also used past snubs to fuel her drive to the top.

After struggling, she said, in her the 100m/200m “pet event” at Vere Technical, a period she described as being “rough”, she told the Jamaica Observer that then Coach John Mair suggested she switched to the hurdles.

“I looked at him and said ‘Coach, I can’t run hurdles,’ ” adding with a laugh that “We went back and forth, then I suddenly made up my mind of running it.”

It was not a smooth transition, she admitted.

“Don’t get me wrong, it was terrible at first... believe me, I wanted to quit because I wasn’t getting the practice because a former coach told me he wasn’t going to coach me because I’m not a ‘star’. Did it offend me? Yes, but I held my head high and still went out there [and ran] to earn a scholarship.”

It was at New Mexico Junior College where she started to show her true potential.

“I shocked everyone in the indoor and outdoor because no one knew about what I was capable of doing. The only thing I ever wanted was the attention to be great, and thanks for these coaches [as] I achieved greatness because they worked with me,” Roswell noted.

In her first season at the junior college level in 2019 she won both indoors and outdoors national titles and retained her indoor title in 2020 before the novel coronavirus pandemic saw the season come to a premature end in March that year.

Moving to Lubbock last season, Roswell said, only took her further up the ladder.

“Texas Tech University is a very good institution [but] in everything you have good and bad right? But I kept trying to forget about the bad and focus on the good and now, look at me,” she said.

Roswell’s first priority in the Big 12 final on Sunday was winning, and only afterwards did she see the time she had run. “My reaction wasn’t for the time; I was more excited about winning. I don’t chase times, my coach would say ‘Just go out there and have fun’ and I did just that.”

Roswell, who came into this season with a personal best 13.17 seconds, had run a then personal best 12.78 seconds in the preliminaries on Saturday and said her meteoric rise to the top will not change her approach.

“Nothing has changed, to be honest. The coaching staff is amazing. Running fast doesn’t mean you have to change anything, I just have to keep healthy, focus, and remain hungry,” she stated.

Roswell, who is in her second year at New Mexico and who has another season of eligibility, said the difference for her was “I got amazing people on my team [who are] willing to work with me,” as she named coaches Calvin Robinson, Zach Glavash, John Mair, Texas Tech Head Coach Wes Kittley and others who she said “all saw the potential in me, so it is the love and belief for me”.

After establishing herself at the junior college level, Roswell said it appeared she was destined to go to Texas Tech as she had numerous offers to transfer to universities in 2020.

“The recruitment was crazy! I got called from the best of the best universities in the world and Texas Tech was one of them.” However, because of the novel coronavirus pandemic she was not able to take up any of her official visits to the campuses, “so the only school I knew was ‘Tech’ and I am happy with the decision I made of coming here because these staff are amazing”.

When it was pointed out that Jamaica has one of the deepest pools of women sprint hurdlers in the world and when questioned as to where she sees herself fitting in, Roswell was quick to answer, “To be honest, wherever I land in the group would be fine for me because I will still be among these amazing and talented women so placement is nothing — just want to be heard/seen.. I want athletes out there who are struggling [to know they] should not give up on their dreams because dreams do come true,” Roswell said.

As for later in the year, with two major championships to come — the World Athletics Championships and the Commonwealth Games — Roswell says she will continue to do what she has been doing.

“That day will tell. [I’m] just remaining hungry, focused and keeping healthy — but in God’s name I will make the team, amen,” she concluded.

ROSWELL...I shocked everyone in the indoor and outdoor because no one knew about what I was capable of doing
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Paul Reid

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