High Point Christian (NC) Academy graduate Chantz Sawyers is preparing for his first international track and field competition at the Pan American Junior Championships in Trujillo, Peru, from July 21-23. And it's a big moment for the Greensboro, North Carolina, native. But while Sawyers grew up in the USA, he's a dual-national for Jamaica and qualified for the junior championships at the country's junior competition. While the future University of Florida athlete will hope to break 46 seconds for the first time in the 400, he also says he's going to soak up his first international experience. Sawyers is already in Peru, but he took some time to answer from questions for MileSplit before competition.
Congrats on making Jamaica's Pan American Junior Championship team. How does it feel to be on the team? Why is this honor important to you?
Thank you very much! It's an unbelievable feeling being on this team. This honor is really important to me because I will be representing more then just myself, but also my family and our heritage.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background? Are you a dual-national? Is this the first time you will be competing in Jamaica's uniform? What does that mean to you and your family?
Well I was born in New York, but I've lived in Greensboro, NC, really all my life. My dad and all his family were born and raised in Jamaica. Yes, I do have a dual-citizenship. And yes, this is my first time putting on a Jamaican uniform and also, this my first international meet. Being able to run for Jamaica means the world to me and my family because we all worked so hard to make this happen and we want to also help continue the tradition of great sprinting for Jamaica
Can you describe competing in Jamaica's JAAA National Junior Competition in June? How does it work exactly - in terms of how they pick members on the team - and how did you feel you competed during the JAA competition?
Competing at Jamaica's Junior Nationals was definitely the most nerve-racking thing I've ever been through, but once I came through in third in the 100 meters that really boosted my confidence because I'm not really known for that event. So that gave me a huge boost going into the 400.
How they do things is typically normal of how the US does it. The first two athletes get to run in the open event at the international meet and third and fourth place gets you on a relay team.
Do you feel you're running your best at this point? What events have you gotten stronger in, and how do you feel you've developed from the time between high school graduation and now?
I don't feel that I'm running my best at this point. I've really only been running track for three years now, so I still have a lot to learn and hit my potential. But I feel like I've gotten really strong in the 100m and 400m throughout the years. The first time I ran a 400m, I ran 52 seconds and now I run 46. And for the 100, I only really started running that event last year. The first time I ran it, I ran 10.8 and now I'm running 10.5. I definitely PR'ed a lot in those races throughout high school because I was never afraid to go the extra mile in practice.
I can honestly say I've tried my hardest at every practice and will never regret it. My development after high school hasn't really been that much, I'm just trying to have a lot more fun and enjoy the last weeks of summer but also train hard so I can do well at this meet.
What events will you be running at the Pan American Junior Championships?
I will be doing the 400, 4x400, and maybe the 4x100 according the the coaching staff.
How did you get picked those for those events and what are your goals?
I got picked for the 400 and 4x400 because I had the fastest time at the the Junior Trials and if I'm on the 4x100, it's because I came third at the trial. My goal for the 400m is sub-46. And for the relays, my goal is for us to medal and do as best as we can.
Best case scenario for you, what happens at the Pan American Junior Championships?
Best case scenario would be helping my team win the 4x4.
Is there anyone you look forwarding to meeting or competing against and why?
How will this motivate you in the future?
What are your goals as you head toward your freshman year at the University of Florida?
Can we expect to see you again in a Jamaica uniform down the line?