When 13-year-old American prodigy D’Asia Duncan hits the track at the Gamecock Indoor Challenge in South Carolina on Saturday, her Jamaican coach Xavier Brown expects to see further signs of improvement from the youngster, who is hoping for a day be like her heroine Allyson Felix.
Brown, 38, has been coaching the teenager since the summer of 2020 after the Geneva Christian School eighth-grader moved from Connecticut to Orlando, Florida to maximize athletic and academic opportunities.
It was at a meet in Orlando that she first met Brown, who appeared ‘out of the blue’ but later relieved her mother, Marilyn, of the responsibilities of coaching the young multi-sport athlete . A straight-A student-athlete, D’Asia is also a three-time national record holder, having set age-group records in the 60m hurdles, 100m hurdles and pentathlon. She is also a 14-time national champion and 28-time All American.
When Brown took over as coach in 2020, D’Asia had personal bests of 14.72 in the 100m hurdles, 17′ eight and a quarter inches in the long jump and five feet in the high jump. She has since run 14.42, jumped 18 feet, three and a quarter inches and five feet one inch in the high jump.
She also cut fractions of her 800m time from 2:24 to 2:22 and opened her season with a time of 9.18 over 60m hurdles after not competing indoors. for several years.
Brown expects to see improvement across the board on Saturday.
“Indoors is something she hasn’t done in years so she’s coming back so I’m looking for bigger performances this time. The 400m we’re doing is trying to make her stronger to do a 200 and a better 100. So we try to make her stronger, faster,” he said.
“So we’re looking for good things from her tomorrow running the hurdles, the 400m and also jumping a longer distance.”
In Jamaica, Brown was not as publicized a coach as Glen Mills, who coached him to CAC 200m gold in 2006, Stephen Francis or Maurice Wilson, but before migrating to the United States a few years ago , he had gradually built a reputation as a respected athletic trainer, commanding respect from his peers and athletes along the way.
He made his breakthrough working with hurdler Shermaine Williams, who was then being coached by Lennox Graham. Graham, now an assistant coach at Clemson University, coached at Kingston College in the early 2000s before migrating to the United States to transform the athletics program at Johnson C. Smith University where he mentored sister of Williams, Danielle, in several NCAA divisions. II titles and finally to the gold medal in the 100m hurdles at the 2015 World Championships in Helsinki.
In 2011, while working as an assistant to Coach Maurice Wilson at GC Foster College, Brown had the opportunity to coach a few Australian sprinters to their personal bests during a successful exchange program. Since then he has coached at Camperdown High School, Calabar High School, Clarendon College and St Jago High School.
Given his experience and eye for identifying emerging talent, soon after emigrating to the United States, Brown quickly saw something special in D’Asia.
“The first time we met in person was at a track meet in Orlando, she was doing the high jump,” Brown recalled.
“D’Asia has a lot of potential. She is a natural talent and with the guidance of her mother and me, she will have a lot to offer the sport in the future.
However, it was a chance interaction on social media that Brown came into contact with Marilyn, who was then coaching her daughter to one day fulfill her dream of becoming a professional and ultimately an Olympian.
“Xavier had been following D’Asia on social media and would give feedback via inbox which I would read, respond to and consider as he was truly aware of his sightings,” Marilyn recalled.
“He came from Jamaica to Orlando around the time she was preparing for regionals and informed us that he would like to come see her compete. Ironically, that weekend we were competing next to him, so we invited him in. He was on time, attentive and I quickly noticed that he had an eye on all the points that needed improvement.
“He helped her become a four-time Orlando regional champion in the 100m hurdles, 200m hurdles, high jump and long jump.
“That’s when we considered having him join our team to relieve me of the coaching and so I could focus on the parenting aspect. We extended the offer, he accepted and immediately been present, dedicated, patient, careful and offered a lot of knowledge in various fields.
For D’Asia, Brown becoming his coach also came as a surprise.
“My mother said that a fan from another country was coming to meet me in Orlando for the regionals and when I met him he helped me a lot and I did well. Then another day my mother told me that she wanted him to work longer with me because he knew a lot and he could help us, plus it would help her and let her focus on things at home and just be a mother.recalled.
Despite the circumstances, the pair hit it off immediately.
“My mom was coaching me because we were new to Florida and it worked better being an unattached athlete, but she really wanted to find me a good coach who was smart and had the experience to help me at different stages. of life and the track,” she said.
“I remember we had talked about how he introduced himself and helped us and was so nice. We went on the internet and social media and we were like ‘oh wow, he was here and did this and that, so yeah, we prayed, and she picked him up for long-term training and he has been a good fit ever since.
“He’s a good coach and he really knows what he’s talking about. He works me hard but not too hard.
According to Marilyn, Brown has also shown the kind of exemplary qualities that make him so much more than she could ever have imagined. More than her coaching acumen, she also found Brown to have a strong character.
“I knew Xavier was a suitable candidate because despite his own qualities as an exceptional sprinter, a credible coach with an impressive resume, traveling and coaching around the world as well as training alongside other exceptional Jamaican athletes, he was humble.” she said.
“Xavier came to us just to help. Usually I would hesitate because he came out of nowhere, but I remember praying for someone with good intentions, no ulterior motives and no knowledge, and then he appeared. It was one of those things where you just know. He wasn’t boastful or selfish trying to convince us of his importance. In fact, I only found out who he was after researching him extensively before asking him to join D’Asia’s team.
“He didn’t speak much, but when he did he was full of knowledge and powerful. I really liked how he made sure we fed D’Asia properly – without rushing the process in any way – among sharing reasonable and good goals and how to approach them in the future .
Marilyn thinks Brown is just what she and D’Asia needed at this point in the latter’s burgeoning career.
“So far, I mean he’s really putting together good workouts that cover a lot of areas, which is hard to do because she’s multi-event, hurdles, jumper,” she said.
“He makes sure the rest and recovery is there, he puts great stretches and exercises together that are not only beneficial now but for the future, keeps his mind strong and his focus on her.
“Xavier really thinks long term when it comes to her mental, spiritual, emotional and physical well-being which I know will prove effective. Since working with him, he has helped make her a double national junior olympic winner and so far she is exactly where we have been training her for the start of the season.
Meanwhile, D’Asia, who plans to one day become an orthopedic surgeon and businesswoman, focuses on what’s immediately in front of her, dominating her surroundings.
“D’Asia’s short-term goals are to maintain a balance and excel properly with academics, athletics as well as her personal life. In athletics, she hopes to continue to dominate at the youth/high school level, defend the national titles and hope to break more school, meet, national or even world records while having fun, staying mentally strong and injury free,” said Marilyne.
“(Her) medium-term goals are to maintain a proper balance while excelling in all areas of her life. She hopes to attend a prestigious college that will help bring her closer to her long-term athletic goals and career in general.
For Brown, the task, for now, is simple.
“My short-term goal for D’Asia is to make her stronger and faster and also mentally prepared for what’s to come, day by day.”