"No, we don't have the healthiest of systems," says Mills. "Colleges in the U.S. have brought great results, but all those youngsters without academic strength are left out. Jamaican athletes win perhaps 10 to 15 scholarships a year. What about the rest?"
Mills would love to see a system of clubs develop. But Jamaica has many needs. "We'll have to look forward to sending the best abroad for some time," he says. "It's unfortunate, but it's a question of means."
There is a sports school in Jamaica. To reach it, one must drive 13 miles west of Kingston, to Spanish Town. Little of the way is without people beside the road. Some work with machetes on the wide verges, throwing cuttings on smoky fires. Men hang out around the many cement-block lounges, leaning against walls and posts. There are donkey carts of sticks and car parts. Goats abound, JERK CENTER says a sign advertising a shop specializing in pork and chicken jerky. Through the soot and diesel exhaust walk young women of regal bearing, their maroon, red and bright blue dresses dramatic against gleaming black limbs.
The driver, named Sam Redshirt, is a friend of McKenley's. He points out the St. Catherine district prison, saying, "That place is where they hang people." The center of Spanish Town is a beautiful old square of columned, yellow and pink brick buildings. "Built with no mortar," says Redshirt, "just molasses, sand and white lime."
The G.C. Foster College of Physical Education and Sport, just outside of town, is startling in its space and functional line. A gift from Cuba, it cost $6 million and opened in 1980. Its vice-principal, Al Phillips, (he has since left the school) was a long jumper and sprinter for Indiana from 1956 to '60, and it was his father who first encouraged McKenley to run. Phillips is 45. He looks 28.
As he displays the large gym, weight room and pool, Phillips' main point is that the tradition of success in the sprints has left a terrible gap in the other events and so ultimately has sold Jamaica short. "Coaches will say they coach track and field, but it's only sprints," he says. "Ask them how you hold a pole, how you set up a training schedule for a 5,000-meter runner, and they'll say, uh, I don't do that. Ask them what athletes they have produced and they'll name sprinters."
The college track is sandy, its lanes marked with black lines of tar. "We've had to learn to use indigenous things. The tar stays down in the hard rain. Lime washes right away."
G.C. Foster (named for the man who, in 1907, reportedly ran a 9.7 100 yards when the world record was 9.6) offers a three-or four-year college program. Its first class of 97 is now in its final year. The students are the solution to Phillips' lament about the narrowness of Jamaican coaching. "They're getting a solid grounding in all the facets of track coaching," he says. "The graduates are going to go out and start programs in the country, right across the island, and the athletes they produce will steamroll the ones the present coaches have. There's no reason our talent can't find expression in a whole range of events." Phillips would seem to be borne out in this by the success of a Jamaican like Milt Ottey, who left for Canada at 10, enjoyed good coaching and won the 1982 NCAA high jump for UTEP at 7'7¼".
"Ah, talent," Phillips says, luxuriating in the fundamental Jamaican blessing. "Not just in track, you know. Pat Ewing, who plays for Georgetown, was originally from Kingston. Bob Marley sang of Trench Town Rock." Indeed, for Phillips, gifts are to be seen everywhere. A few years ago at a soccer game, he liked the way one of the goalies moved. "You ever run?" he asked afterward. "No, not me. I play cricket and football," the goalie replied. Phillips got him out to do a few hills in the mornings. His name was Floyd Brown, and he has run a 45.87 400 for the University of Florida.
McKenley drives his rattling, blotchy 1972 BMW with 130,000 miles on it toward Calabar College. "Calabar is the name of a place in Africa," he explains. "Jamaican missionaries had come back from there when they started this school, originally for sons of the Baptist clergy." Now the Jamaican government comes up with a subsidy. "But it always seems late with its support, or it cuts the budget, so the schools are always behind in payments for facilities or equipment. The Calabar Old Boys Association is the reason for the sports program's survival. For example, this year there will be a special dual meet between Calabar and Kingston colleges to raise money for the track teams at both. The cup they'll fight for will be called, I'm happy to say, the McKenley-Miller Cup."