By GARY KINGSTON
Jerome Blake aspires to be a one-percenter.
“That’s the ultimate goal,” says the up-and-coming Canadian sprinter from Kelowna. “To be in that (top) one per cent level, to go under 10 seconds in the 100 (metres) and under 20 in the 200.”
Reaching that level would actually put him in something like the top .001 given that there are tens of thousands of runners worldwide running the marquee 100 metres on everything from the lastest in synthetic track surfaces to crude dirt tracks.
But looking strictly at the IAAF’s 2019 world’s best list, which as of June 6 had 4,095 male sprinters with times of 11.00 or better in the 100, Blake’s recently-run personal best of 10.20 is good for a tie for 72nd on the list. He’d have to run 10.12 to move into the top 40, or the top one per cent of that list.
Blake, who moved to Kelowna from Jamaica with his family in 2013 and who now lives in Burnaby and trains with the Coquitlam Cheetahs, is hoping he can take a few more hundredths of that PB at the Vancouver Sun Harry Jerome International Track Classic on June 20 at Swangard Stadium.
Toronto’s Aaron Brown, who has a personal best of 9.96 in the 100 and who has been having a terrific season at 200 metres this spring on the Diamond League circuit, will also run the 100 at the Jerome.
“I love racing against him,” Blake said in a recent interview. “Me and Aaron are close. Ever since we met, he’s one of those guys who’s always been there for me, giving me tips, always helping me.”
With his 10.20 in Calgary on June 2, beating his previous PB of 10.23, Blake has put himself into contention for a spot on Canada’s 4x100 team if a berth can be secured for this October’s IAAF world championships and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Brown and triple 2016 Olympic gold medalist Andre DeGrasse are the relay mainstays, with Bismark Boateng, Brendon Rodney and Gavin Smellie in the mix along with Blake.
“I want to represent Canada on the main stage,” says the personable Blake. “Of course I’d like to run as an individual, but the relays are a great opportunity to get a medal.”
He acknowledges that the others all have experience running relays in major international events, but says he’s determined to make the best of any opportunity he gets and make the decision even more difficult for Canadian coach Glenroy Gilbert.
“That’s something both my parents drummed into me,” says Blake. “If the opportunity comes, you’ve got to take it. I am an opportunist. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. On any given day anyone can beat anybody. I just have to run and see what happens.”
While he’ll contest the 100 at the Jerome Classic, Blake says he actually thinks he’s a better runner at 200 metres, with a personal best at that distance of 20.38, set in Ottawa last July. His big focus this season is getting his acceleration up through 100 metres, saying “that’s definitely going to help my 200.”
Given that he’s only really been focused on sprinting for five years -- he was a jumper in his early teens in Jamaica -- Blake believes he can make the necessary improvements to push himself into the conversation with the world’s elite sprinters.
“I really think I have the potential. I’ve been around some of the fastest guys in the world (in Canadian camps with DeGrasse and Brown), I’ve lived in that environment, seen what everyone does and that just drives me to work harder.”
Jerome organizers are still hopeful of adding a couple of American runners capable of threatening the 10-second mark to the field that will toe the line for the 100 metres at Swangard Stadium.
“I want to be lined up against people with fast times, people who are up there in the sport,” says Blake. “It gives me a little bit of a buzz . . . it does help with my confidence.
“I’m ready for the challenge. I’m super excited, can’t wait.”
Tickets for the Jerome meet are available at www.harryjerome.com/tickets