Vattenfall Elite Games series winner Laverne Spencer (Paula Noronen) © Copyright
Levern SPENCER, Saint Lucia (High Jump)
Born: 23 June 1984, Babonneau, Castries, St.Lucia
Lives: Athens, Georgia, USA
Coach: Wayne Norton
Managers: John Regis, Gregory Dickson
Levern Spencer describes herself as “a bit of an introvert”. She will have no choice, though, to be in the spotlight at the IAAF/VTB Bank Continental Cup.
Spencer will represent Americas in the women’s high jump, an event that will also feature Continental Cup poster girl Blanka Vlasic.
Vlasic has been in superb form, and Spencer acknowledges she will be difficult to beat in front of her home crowd.
“My realistic Continental Cup goal is placing after World champion Blanka Vlasic, or if she has a very bad day then defeating her. I have only done that once in my career when she had a very bad day so hopefully history can repeat itself. She has been having another consistent season and looks unbeatable at present, but who knows.”
In May, this year, Spencer established a new St. Lucia record, the Athens, Georgia (USA) resident clearing the bar at 1.98 metres to grab top spot at the Georgia Invitational.
She was also impressive at the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games, in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, in late July, the 26-year-old athlete striking gold with a 1.94 metres clearance.
Since that triumph, however, she has lost form. Spencer’s best jump in her last six meets - between 6 August and 1 September – is just 1.88 metres.
“I don't have any particular height in mind [at the Continental Cup] because I have been struggling a bit over the last few meets. Just want to go back to the high 90s and if everything is equal I can perhaps break the 2-metre barrier.”
Spencer definitely has the ability to join the elite 2-metre club. Perhaps, she could have been an elite sprinter as well.
“I got involved in track and field at the primary school level. It is just something that all kids do. My specialty then was sprinting. I realised I was good at sprinting when, even at that level, I was able to not just defeat all my peers but even persons older than I was. The encouragement came from my then coach Leo Amede, teachers and students, family and my home church youth group president Gregory Dickson.”
Spencer has a strong spiritual focus, and though she is now based in the United States, Dickson is part of her management team.
“I never had any idols growing up and I still don't have any, but my local manager, Gregory Dickson has been my mentor for a very long time and still is. I have tried to put into practice what he has taught me because he is also my church leader.”
During her sprinting days, back home in St. Lucia, Spencer enjoyed a victory on the track that would prove to have long term benefits.
“At age 12, when representing my home church at an athletic meet, I defeated a much older national athlete who was one of the best sprinters in St. Lucia at that time. Of course I was elated, and many of my supporters too. This taught me that when you take something seriously and train hard, there is no limit to what you can achieve, and so I have gone through my athletic career with that in mind.”
The lesson has served Spencer well, the St. Lucian doing her island nation proud by earning the right to compete on the biggest sporting stage.
“My biggest achievement to date would have to be qualifying for the Beijing Olympics in 2008, since I am from a small country where just a small pool of athletes have made it to that level. Also, qualifying for the finals of the World Championships, in Osaka, Japan, in 2007, where I had to actually equal my personal best of 1.94 at the time to do so.”
The Beijing experience, however, was bitter-sweet.
“My [biggest] disappointment to date would have to be not qualifying for the finals of the Beijing Olympics because of unfavourable weather conditions. I had come into the competition with high hopes of making the finals since I had been having a very prolific year.”
With a population of just 173,000, St. Lucia is a close-knit society.
“I am encouraged by the fact that it is a small country where everybody knows everybody, so when I am there I meet people on a daily basis who would offer congratulatory remarks and words of encouragement. In St. Lucia I lived in the suburban community of Babonneau which is about 15 minutes drive from the capital, Castries.”
Spencer grabs any opportunity to visit her country.
“My biggest interest outside of track and field is my spiritual life. I am a devout Christian and love to spend time with my church family. Whenever I am in my country of St. Lucia, which is sometimes three times a year, I have a lot of fellowship in church and around my church family. And in Athens, Georgia, where I reside at present, you will find me in church every Sunday.”
Spencer is a standout athlete regionally, capturing CAC titles as well as Pan Am Games bronze. She has also tasted global success. As a 17-year-old, Spencer bagged bronze at the 2001 World Youth (under-18) Championships, in Debrecen, Hungary.
“The people mainly responsible for my success are my high school coach Gregory Lubin in St. Lucia, my current coach Wayne Norton, head coach of the University Of Georgia, Dickson and my mum AnnMarie Spencer.”
Leverne is currently seventh on the 2010 world performance list, thanks to her 1.98 metres national record.
“My biggest goals for 2010 were improving on my personal record, being more competitive on the European circuit and winning gold at the Commonwealth Games in India. I have achieved the first two and now I look forward to the Commonwealth Games in October.”
But, like all elite athletes, the ultimate goal is Olympic success.
“My Olympic dreams are qualifying for the next two Olympics - in 2012 and 2016 - before I retire, and hopefully winning a medal at one of them, something that has not yet been done by anyone from my country.”
High Jump: 1.98 metres (2010)
High Jump: 2000: 1.80; 2001: 1.84; 2002: 1.83; 2003: 1.86; 2004: 1.88; 2005: 1.94; 2006: 1.90; 2007: 1.94; 2008: 1.93; 2009: 1.95; 2010: 1.98
2001 1st Carifta Games U20 (Bridgetown) 1.79
2001 3rd World Youth Championships (Debrecen) 1.81
2001 1st *CAC Championships (Guatemala City) 1.80
2002 2nd Carifta Games U20 (Nassau) 1.82
2002 1st *CAC U20 Championships (Bridgetown) 1.81
2002 8th World Junior Championships (Kingston) 1.83
2003 2nd Carifta Games U20 (Port-of-Spain) 1.86
2003 2nd Pan Am Junior Championships (Bridgetown) 1.83
2003 5th Pan Am Games (Santo Domingo) 1.83
2004 2nd **NACAC Under-23 Championships (Sherbrooke) 1.85
2005 1st *CAC Championships (Nassau) 1.94
2006 5th Commonwealth Games (Melbourne) 1.83
2006 1st ** NACAC Under-23 Championships (Santo Domingo) 1.81
2006 3rd *CAC Games (Cartagena) 1.88
2007 1st **NACAC Championships (San Salvador) 1.89
2007 3rd Pan Am Games (Rio de Janeiro) 1.87
2007 15th World Championships (Osaka) 1.90
2008 1st *CAC Championships (Cali) 1.91
2009 1st *CAC Championships (Havana) 1.91
2010 1st *CAC Games (Mayaguez) 1.94
* CAC = Central American & Caribbean
**NACAC = North America, Central America & Caribbean
Prepared by Kwame Laurence for the IAAF “Focus on athletes” project. Copyright IAAF 2010