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TrackLife International

Bermuda’s Aaron Evans Inspired by Usain Bolt

Twenty-year-old Aaron Evans has had a very active youth, playing soccer, cricket and basketball. The Devonshire, Bermuda native played basketball at camps run by his father and played on the Bermudian National Under-13 soccer squad that toured Europe, playing in Holland, Germany and Belgium.

But one April night at the 2004 CARIFTA Games in his home country, Aaron witnessed a lanky Jamaican youth demolish both the CARIFTA Games and World Junior 200m records with a scintillating 19.93 secs. That lanky record-breaker was a young Usain “Lighting” Bolt. Aaron also witnessed his friend and countryman Taijuan Talbot capture gold in the Under-17 1500m (4:17.15). These two performances inspired Aaron to take up track and field seriously; one year later, in 2005, he was at the CARIFTA Games in Bacolet, Trinidad competing for Bermuda.

Family  

Aaron was born on Jan. 31, 1990 and has one older brother (Ariell). His father, Dr. Freddie Evans, is a middle-school principal in Bermuda and his mother, Gina Evans, is an elementary school vice-principal. His mom, a former 800m All-American runner at Jackson State University, once represented Bermuda at the CARIFTA Games.

“My parents are very supportive and whenever I compete I can hear my father in the stands while my mother gets so nervous. She is more nervous than I am,” he joked.

“I remember my first experience running track; I was at a meet where my brother was competing. I was about 8 years old. The other team was missing a runner so I was asked to fill in. I ran the mile in about 8 minutes, which was impressive at that time,” he recalls.

The Early Years

“While I was at Warwick Academy [from ages 6 to 16] my physical education teacher and football [soccer] coach encouraged me to run track so I ran Cross Country,” he said. At the age of 12, Aaron’s mother enrolled him in the Bermudian Pacers Track Club; so, he was playing both soccer and running track at that tender age. However, Aaron’s two-sport involvement changed after he saw Bolt’s and Talbot’s winning performances. Aaron then embarked on writing his own chapter; at the 2005 CARIFTA Games in Trinidad, he ran the 1500m and the 3000m for Bermuda.

At 16, Aaron left Warwick Academy for Cushing Academy in Massachusetts (USA), where he immediately started participating in Cross Country running. There, he joined two Ethiopian distance runners and together they won two New England Cross Country titles.

By 2007, Aaron was on to something in the 800m and reached the semifinals of that event at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

CARIFTA and Memphis

“I focused only on Cross Country at Cushing,” said Aaron, who considers himself more of a middle-distance runner. “In my senior year, my personal best was 1:54.00 in the 800m and I had only one scholarship on the table with the University of Memphis (Memphis). I wanted to secure my scholarship, so I signed with Memphis before going to the 2008 CARIFTA Games in St. Kitts.” At the Games, Aaron improved on his personal best to 1:52.61 for the bronze medal behind Trinidad & Tobago’s (T&T) Gavyn Nero (1:51.94) and Jamaica’s Theo O’Connor (1:52.49).

A year later, Aaron returned to CARIFTA in St. Lucia and took the silver (1:52.54) in the Under-20 category behind Nero (1:51.75), who passed him on the home stretch.

“After my performance in St. Kitts, I started to get more scholarship offers but I had already committed to Memphis. I wanted to go to the University of Florida or the University of Texas but decided to stick with Memphis.”

Aaron recalled that at first he was a bit frustrated at Memphis because he “wanted to race and practice against the best competitors” and that he felt he was not maximizing his potential. His frustration was also fueled by the departure of the coach who initially recruited him.

Things took a turn though, allowing Aaron to experience a tremendous freshman season at Memphis, where he lowered his personal best 1:49.02 (indoor) and 1:49.35 (outdoor). At the end of that season, he decided to transfer to the University of Georgia (UGA). It was a decision influenced by fellow countryman Steve Burgess, the UGA’s 800m (1:48.30) indoor record-holder, and mentor and role model to Aaron.

‘Just the place for me’

“Steve and I have a great friendship and I think Steve is anxious and excited [about] if I can break his school record,” Aaron said, thinking about the possibility of the mantle being passed from one Bermudian to another.

“The University of Georgia is just the place for me,” said the Bermudian 800m representative to the 2009 CAC (Central American and Caribbean) Games in Havana, Cuba. “It has the best training and academic environment for me. Here [at UGA)] you can get as good as you want to be. My new coach, Jeff Pigg, is the best 800m coach ever.” Aaron further pointed out that his coach brings a lot of excitement to practice: “He shouts out my splits in practice and challenges me, and he is very passionate about the 800m runners. Whenever I put on the University of Georgia uniform I feel so great,” Aaron noted with pride.

Aaron’s excitement as a Georgia “Bulldog” has translated into his performance on the track as he started the 2010 indoor season in fine style — a 1.50.65-secs performance at the University of Kentucky Invitational on January 16.

“Last year at Memphis, I started my indoor season in the 800m with a 1:53.00 performance; this year I started with 1:50.65,” he said.

Eyes Law Career 

Aaron is very happy with his progress on the track and said that his goal for this season is to “improve on his indoor personal best by 1 to 2 seconds, and to be SEC (Southeastern Conference) Champion and an All-American. He also wants to break the UGA 800m (indoor) record held by his friend and mentor Steve Burgess.

“The London 2012 Olympics is my [next] goal. I know that it is 2 years away but everything in my current preparation leads to London,” notes Aaron, who plans on returning to Bermuda after his studies.

This focused athlete also performs well in the classroom, where he currently has a 3.3 GPA (grade point average). He is majoring in Economics and wants to pursue a career in corporate law.

And how does he balance the demands of track and his academic workload. Aaron said, “You have to use your tutors. I have tutors for my calculus and political science classes. I have to keep up with my classes and I have to bring my books with me to the meets and try to get some reading in while I am on the bus.”

For entertainment, Aaron likes listening to Rap and Dancehall music and list Gucci Mane and Vybz Kartel as two of his favorite artistes.

When he goes back to Bermuda he likes to go to his favorite Jamaican restaurant, Fish ’n Ting, and have jerk chicken, fish and rice-and-peas.     -Edited by Desmond Palmer

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