By Allie Greenberg
Holton’s very own Ousman Sallah, head coach of the track team, was in Jamaica this past Spring Break with the world’s fastest runner, Usain Bolt (pictured left). Sallah (pictured right) traveled to Jamaica to learn from coaches what their track techniques were.
In Sallah’s words, he wanted to know “what was in their water!” Sallah’s schedule consisted of waking up at 5:30 a.m. in order to be at the track at 6 a.m. He would watch and interact with the athletes until 9 a.m. and then go to the weight room until 11 a.m. He would return back to the track again from 3:30-6 p.m.
When working hand in hand with Bolt’s coach, Sallah noticed during his experience that the professionals did things a little differently. He noted that the runners “lacked in stretching,” while we value 10-15 minutes of stretching. Sallah also realized that back in America “we take for granted running on grass while in Jamaica they focus for their turn to run and cannot contain their excitement.”
Sallah observed how Bolt and other fast runners trained and watched their races. The competition made way for communication and allowed for the runners to help each other. He could not believe the incredible speed at which they were all running. Sallah asked Bolt how he was able to overcome the fact that he is 6-feet, 6-inches—which would naturally make him slower—and is able to run so fast. Bolt told him that his success are largely based on work with strength and drills. Sallah even got the chance to teach Bolt a few of his own tricks, for Sallah was a long jumper in the 1996 Summer Olympics.
Sallah stressed how grateful he is to Holton for allowing him the opportunity. “Without Holton, this trip would not have been made possible,” he said. “It has been an honor and a privilege and has opened more doors for future possibilities.” Sallah has kept in contact with the coaches and has become close friends with all of them.
After his experience in Jamaica, Sallah was prepared to train the Holton track and field team by the “Jamaican way.” He learned that he has to focus more on technique rather than having the girls constantly running drills over and over, causing them to be overworked and exhausted. He stressed how he wants his practices to be fun and for his athletes to look forward to coming to practice. He wants to follow the Jamaican philosophy: Athletes have to enjoy what they are doing.
At the Georgetown Prep meet, Holton’s Varsity B-team 4x100-meter relay broke the school record, even without its fastest runner, in part thanks to the new technique. Sallah’s future goal for the track team is to bring home the ISL trophy for the first time.
Varsity Track and Field ISL Championship was held on the Holton campus on Saturday, May 12. The A-team broke the Holton record in the 4x100-meter relay with a time of 50.09 seconds. The Panthers came in third place.