Wed | Nov 29, 2023

STETHS still reeling from Eldemire Smith loss

Published:Saturday | March 4, 2023 | 12:53 AMHubert Lawrence/Gleaner Writer
Eldemire Smith.
Eldemire Smith.

The recent Western Championship victories by St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) were emotional ones as the school was reeling from the death of long-serving coach Eldemire Smith. The bereavement has rested mostly heavily on school’s middle and long-distance runners, whom Smith coached until he suffered a stroke in January.

“All of us, we are still saddened, we are still in shock at the departure of coach Eldemire Smith. He is somebody, you know, we loved dearly who would have been with us all the years, about four decades. This is our first Championship without him and it really saddens us, but we are fighting and we are doing this for Eldemire Smith,” head coach Marvin James said during the final day of the meet on the school’s grounds in Santa Cruz. According to James, the school’s guidance counsellors are leading the effort to comfort the student athletes and to help them through their grief.

In a scene replayed after almost every race won by STETHS, Class One 800 metres winner Barrain Smith broke down in front of a photographic display of his coach placed just beyond the finish line. The youngster had visited coach Smith in hospital on a daily basis.

“He was in tears when he came back to see me after he saw him last week. For this week, what I have done, I just tried to sit with him every day. I talk with him every day, sometimes for an hour, sometimes two hours depending on the nature of the conversation,” said James, himself moved by the loss.

The display of respect and love extended to 5000 metres-winner Nathaniel Wallace of William Knibb Memorial, who represented STETHS last year.

Support has also come from former head coach Reynaldo Walcott and headmaster Keith Wellington.

“I’ve also sought assistance from Mr Walcott, Mr Wellington, his parents and the guidance counselling department from the school to help us get through this because it’s very tough,”, James added.

Smith joined the STETHS staff as a mathematics teacher in 1980, and when he retired a few years ago, he was vice principal. Though he retired a few years ago, he continued his work as a member of the STETHS athletics team.

Wellington credits him with the revival of the fortunes of boys’ track and field in the school after the departure of another STETHS legend, Mike Olivierre in 1997.

“We went through a rough patch,” he recalled, pinpointing the 2001-2002 period when the school’s boys’ team dwindled to just five athletes.

“It was Elde, who was still a classroom teacher, and not a PE teacher, known for girls coaching, he decided that this couldn’t work,” he continued.

“I don’t know if many persons can imagine STETHS coming to Champs with only five boys, and that is where we have been building from over the last two decades to the top five among the boys’ schools,” he added.

“I think all of that, every single ounce of advancement over those last 20 years must be attributed to Elde,” Wellington concluded.