Elvis Forde pays close attention to his team’s sprinters at practice.
The two-time Olympian and four-time All-American at Murray State University and Southern Illinois University has the sprinters work on over distance, repetition of their specific events, technique, form and core work, all of which translate into the athletes’ performances at meets.
“The history that he has has really helped us because a distance coach wouldn’t be able to help us as much as he can,” freshman sprinter and hurdler Sylvia Wilson said. “Being a former sprinter and Olympian, that’s even better. It is kind of like your idol coaching you.”
Forde represented Barbados in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics in the 400-meter and the 400 relay. At the 1984 games, he came in sixth in his heat in the semifinal round of the 400 relay, and his team finished sixth in the 400 relay finals.
The 400, Forde’s specialty, is a strong event for the Owls. Junior sprinter Kenya Gaston has the best time for Temple so far this season, with a time of 55 seconds, eight milliseconds set on Saturday at the Villanova Invitational.
Gaston has placed in the Top 10 in the 400 in all four meets she’s run the event this season. Freshman sprinter Aliyah Sharp finished seventh in the 400 with a time of 57.45 at Saturday’s meet. It was her second time competing in the event this indoor season.
“He just knows so much about the race because he competed in it,” Sharp said. “With the over distance training, he knows that if I run for a longer period of time or longer distance, it will make it easier for me to run the four.”
Forde has also helped runners improve in the 60-meter and 60 hurdles, as those two events often yield points for the Owls.
Junior sprinter and jumper Jimmia McCluskey and Wilson have the five best times for the team in the 60 this season. Wilson and junior hurdler Simone Brownlee have the fastest times for Temple in the 60 hurdles.
“Jimmia is probably our biggest blast when it comes to sprints,” Forde said. “But Sylvia has got some really good foot speed and that has been the key to her success.”
Wilson set the school record in the 60 and 60 hurdles at the Villanova Invitational this weekend.
An important aspect Forde helps his athletes with involves their start to a sprint, so the team practices its beginnings off the blocks.
“Working on your starts and your form is a really big part of block work,” Wilson said. “A lot of times your power comes from your core, so when your core is good, your start is usually good.”
Despite having strong runners in the sprinting events, Forde is worried about a lack of depth in the short distance group, which affects the training methods and the intensity with which he can push his athletes.
There are nine sprinters on the roster, compared to eight last year. In the five sprinting events, either Wilson, Gaston, McCluskey, Sharp or junior sprinter and jumper Bionca St. Fleur hold the three fastest times for the events this season.
In the 200, the best 11 times during this indoor season belong to a combination of these five athletes.
“You know that you are so limited and don’t want to get your best athletes hurt,” Forde said. “But I hope in the future, once we recruit well enough, we will have enough people in the group that when one goes down, the next person can step up.”
Maura Razanauskas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.