Rhianna Mc Kenzie
The northeastern coastline has a range of memorable experiences to offer. From the crisp, cold air rolling off the waves of the Atlantic Ocean, turtle watching and rivers where crystal clear mountain water races to the ocean.
The area is also home to one of our most recognisable athletes – Keshorn Walcott, who grew up in Toco.
Well, there must be something in the water, because twins Jenniah and Jenique Mc Laren are on their way to becoming the country’s next sports stars.
The 12-year-olds have been raking up medals since they were seven in track and field, in local and regional competitions.
But the youngsters aren’t only excelling in sport. They both did exceptionally well this year during their Secondary Entrance Examinations (SEA), passing for their first choice Toco Secondary.
The girls spoke to Newsday Kids in their rural hometown of Matelot on Tuesday with their mother Tricia Mc Laren.
They said they got involved in track and field at the age of six, after participating in a few school events at Matelot RC.
Their parents felt they had a natural talent for running and decided to enrol them in a club, the Toco Track and Field Athletic Club (TAFAC).
Their mom said preparing for competitions and SEA has not been easy on them.
“We have to do training and we have to study,” she said. “To find the balance sometimes can be tricky. Training starts at 5 am and we have to get back in time to get to school. Sometimes they are really tired and worn (but) we want to have As in work and A-class in sports as well.”
She said being a twin has been a “God send” for the girls. “They have each other to rely on for that and I think they have done very well. Jenniah, in particular, has always placed first in tests.”
Jenniah was the highest scoring student in SEA 2021 at Matelot RC and her sister also did very well in the exam.
“Preparing for (SEA) was stressful, but we put in the hard work.” She said the test itself was not as difficult as she anticipated. “You just have to focus.”
Jenniah received 82 per cent in mathematics, 16/20 in creative writing, and 73 per cent in English. “I was proud of myself. Math was not hard for me, but I don’t like it, so I thought I was going to have the lowest score in that, but I actually scored the highest.”
Jenique scored a 56 in math, 68 in English, and 15/20 in creative writing. “I don’t like creative writing at all, so to get that mark, I was really proud of myself. Math was giving me trouble, but I was always good at math from infants to standard three and after that it got harder, but I still got a good mark.”
The girls said they plan to continue to strive for better grades. Jenique said she would like to get into the military and serve her country and Jenniah aspires to be a university professor.
Both girls said living in Matelot has been a wonderful experience. “We have the river and the sea and we bathe all the time,” said Jenniah. “Every August, we go every single day while we’re on vacation.”
She said, however, training for track and field has its limitations in the village. “We don’t have the equipment, so we have to use the nature to help us.” She said they do their drills on a nearby hill and do water exercises in the river.
“I love living in Matelot. You have children to play with, fruits to make chow, but the transport is hard. We have to use what have here.”
The girls thanked their coach John Andelcio who comes to them four days a week from Arima to assist in their training.
Tricia said her daughters have had many challenges, including connectivity issues for online classes and the occasional electricity outage.
“We had those challenges, but the environment helps with that. It makes us stronger. We know we have to work harder than everybody else to make sure we stay on top of everything.”
“I want to thank my coach, parents, and teachers who helped us during primary school, and most of all God for helping me and my family,” said Jenniah.
Track and field achievements
In 2016, Jenique and Jenniah placed first and second, respectively at the Trupial Games in Curacao. They also competed and placed at the North East Coast Games that year.
In 2017, the girls were also victorious at the National Association of Athletics Administration (NAAA) Championships, placing first and second — Jenique and Jenniah respectively — in the 100m and 200m races.
Also in 2017, Jenique represented the North Eastern Division in the Juvenile Championships and won first place in the 100m and 200m races.
At the National Championship Primary School Games, in 2019 Jenique and Jenniah placed first and second again in the 100m, 200m, and 300m races.
In 2018 and 2019, Jenique won Victoria Ludorum — the overall female champion in a sports competition — at the games. She also won the Outstanding Athlete Award at the annual NAAATT Awards in 2019.
Both girls wish to continue to pursue sports at their new school. Jenique has her eyes set on trying out football and cricket, while Jenniah would like to try netball.