Updated 25 July 2009
Laverne JONES-FERRETTE, US Virgin Islands (100/200m)
Born: 16 September 1981, St Croix, US Virgin Islands
Coach: Allen Powell
Manager: Mark Block
When Laverne Jones asked a friend to give her a boy’s phone number, she hoped that it might lead to a relationship. But what the young sprinter didn’t expect was that Stephen Ferrette would become more than just a boyfriend and, eventually, her husband. Unbeknown to her, Ferrette was an ex athlete who would prove critical in the development of her track career.
She takes up the story: “I knew him from a while back but I never really paid attention so, when I came home from my summer vacation from junior college, I called his number to talk to him because he was always in the back of my mind, not knowing that he ran track also.” Jones was on her break from college in the United States when she made the move on him.
“My best friend was still living at home when I went to college and she had his number,” Jones-Ferrette continued. “We attended different Baptist churches but the youth would come together and I always saw him and I married him (in 2007). He was an ex US Virgin Islands Olympic hopeful at 400m, in 1995, which was perfect because he knew what I was doing and he helped me out so much in my track career before I became a professional. So many times I wanted to quit but he said ‘Laverne you have great talent’.”
Great talent indeed as evidenced by Jones-Ferrette’s 100m silver medal at the 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games and her outstanding 2009 summer season leading up to the World Championships in Berlin. With one last warm-up meeting, in Stockholm, to go before Berlin, Jones-Ferrette could already reflect on four national records in 2009, two at 100 (11.18/11.13) and two at 200 (22.49/22.46).
“That was my first international medal,” Jones-Ferrette said of her 2006 100m silver at the Central American and Caribbean Games. And, speaking at the Aviva London Grand Prix on 24/25 July, where she finished third in the 100m and fourth in the 200m, she added: “Right now I’m chasing bigger medals – like World Championships, Olympics.” To continue progressing towards those goals, she said in London that her aim is to make the 200m final in Berlin (she is not planning to contest the 100m).
Jones-Ferrette was well into her teenage years before she took up athletics. “I went to St Croix Central High School then, at 15, I transferred to my brother’s high school which is St Croix Educational Complex. I got into the sport from 11th grade, when I was probably 15 or 16,” she said. “My brother (Stephen) ran track and, as I needed an after-school extra-curricular activity, I decided to try it. I needed something to do. I was not into basketball or any other sport. He ran and I decided to run. He was pretty good. He never made it to the professional level but he was top-notch in high school.
“I did pretty good and, in 2000, when I was 18, I got picked up from Barton County Community College (in Kansas). Coach Lance Brauman (coach to Tyson Gay and Veronica Campbell-Brown) was there. I started out running 400s then I graduated to Oklahoma University in 2003. From there I went back to being a sprinter.”
In 2004, at 22, Jones-Ferrette qualified for the Athens Olympics and, although her biggest meeting to date had been the NCAAs, she was not overawed. “When I saw the crowd I was like ‘wow’,” she recalled. Doubling at 100 and 200m, Jones came through the heats of both events but was eliminated in the quarter-finals. Still excited at the memory, she added: “I ran with Gail Devers, I saw all the top names. I ran pretty well.”
Jones was one of only two members of the US Virgin Islands athletics team in Athens, the other being Adrian Durant (100m). It was the same again in 2008 when, in Beijing, she and Tabarie Henry (400m) made up the team. “The advantage (of coming from a small country) is that I don’t have to focus on trials and have 20 other athletes at the same level as me,” Jones-Ferrette said. “The disadvantage is that you don’t have relays and you don’t have the ability to stay around other athletes to push you.”
Between Olympics, in 2005, Jones-Ferrette switched coaches to Allen Powell at the University of Houston, where she is based still. One reason she gives for her improvement in 2009 is the decision to miss the indoor season and run fewer races. In previous years, she has hit form early in the summer season but been unable to hold it through to the peak of the season. “In the past I have run indoor races then come outdoors,” Jones-Ferrette said. “We decided to take a different approach this year and scrap the indoors and just focus on outdoors. I counted how many races I ran last year before the Olympics and it totalled 46. This year it is less than 25.”
From a family of five brothers and one sister, Jones-Ferrette is accompanied by her husband only to the big championships but not the circuit meetings. And it may not be too much longer before she has a fellow woman US Virgin Islands sprinter travelling with her after 17-year-old Allison Peter took 100 and 200m silver at the World Youth Championships in Sudtirol, Italy, from 8-12 July. “I am hoping I am an inspiration to her as well as her being an inspiration to me,” Jones said.
60m (i): 7.16 (2007)
100m: 11.13 (2009)
200m: 22.46 (2009)
400m: 51.47 (2007)
100/200m: 2003: 11.37/23.26; 2004: 11.25/22.81; 2005:11.45/23.17; 2006: 11.30/22.92; 2007:11.32/22.52; 2008: 11.24/22.62; 2009: 11.13/22.46.
2003 8th Central American and Caribbean Championships (100m)
2004 qf Olympic Games (100/200m)
2005 4th Central American and Caribbean Championships (100m)
2005 sf World Championships (200m)
2005 qf World Championships (100m)
2005 7th World Student Games (200m)
2005 sf World Student Games (100m)
2006 sf World Indoor Championships (60m)
2006 2nd Central American and Caribbean Games (100m)
2006 4th Central American and Caribbean Games (200m)
2007 7th Pan-American Games (100/400m)
2007 sf World Championships (200m)
2007 qf World Championships (100m)
2008 sf World Indoor Championships (60m)
2008 qf Olympic Games (100/200m)
Prepared by David Powell for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2009