“Never give up; the ability to persevere is powerful and in the end it will always result in greater things.”
These pearls of wisdom are not from a philosopher or motivational speaker. Rather they reflect the thoughts of Lacee Gabriella Barnes, 17-year-old Island Games and CARIFTA shot put and discus medallist who is an Olympic hopeful and 2017 Honouring Women’s Month honoree selected by the Department of Sport.
The advice for aspiring athletes from Barnes is that they should “never be afraid to fail; use failure as a hurdle to leap over…. but always keep pressing forward.”
For Lacee, these are not only words of advice; they are also the personal mantra of the confident daughter of local sports veteran and instructor, Mollyann Moore and former bodybuilder Lancelott Barnes.
Some might say that given the fact that Barnes practically grew up in the sports arena it was inevitable that she would one day be a great athlete. Yet initially she said she “had absolutely no interest in track and field, much less the shot put.”
Barnes first became involved in shot put at 12 when she was chosen for the event at the 2012 Inter-Secondary Championships representing the Clifton Hunter High School. Without any prior experience and what she describes as “pure luck” she was able to “scrape” a gold medal in those Games. What Barnes saw as luck however, was more definitively identified as natural talent by coach Kenrick Williams, who went about convincing both she and her parents that she would be a perfect contender for the upcoming Caribbean Union of Teachers Athletic Games.
With a mere two months of training and only her experience from that Inter-Secondary Championship under her belt, Barnes travelled to her first regional meet. She returned home with a shot put silver medal. This was, of course, a proud day for her and it marked the beginning of her real attraction to the sport.
Barnes has always been an obedient and devoted student, both academically and in athletics. So almost a year later, when coach Williams encouraged her to try her hand at the discus throw, she did so willingly. As it turned out, his advice again tapped into her natural talent.
Since those early days Barnes has gone on to accomplish great things. In 2012 she achieved triple gold in shot put, discus and javelin at the MVP Miami Classics Track Meet.
She has taken shot put gold in shot put and discus in the Inter-Secondary Championships every year since. She attended the Island Games in 2015 where she won gold and silver medals in shot put and discus respectively. That year she also attended the Pan am Junior Games and the Commonwealth Youth Qualifier. She has qualified for CARIFTA every year since 2013; but most importantly, in what she describes as her most coveted accomplishment to date; in the 2016 CARIFTA games in Grenada, Barnes won shot put gold and silver in discus, returning home to a proud family and country.
Despite her significant accomplishments, Barnes admits that her favourite sport is neither shot put nor discus. It’s netball, which she has been playing since she was 7 at Prospect Primary School.
Barnes proudly recollects that her mother was at the time the Prospect School netball coach and in many ways, her interest in the sport “felt as the rite of passage to continue in her path.”
Not surprisingly, Barnes excels at netball too. She was captain of her high school team for her duration there and was awarded most valuable player five times. It’s difficult to discern where she finds the time but Lacee also played both basketball and softball in high school and currently plays
softball at a club level, having competed in national and international tournaments. A Google search of Lacee provides stark confirmation that she excels in every athletic venture she takes on.
This is no less true of her academics. She graduated from Clifton Hunter in 2016 within the top 10 academic students having obtained 10 higher level passes in her CXC examinations. During her graduation ceremony, she was named Student of the Year; received the Leadership Award and was, unsurprisingly, named Athletic Female of the Year.
Currently pursuing her ‘A’ levels at St Ignatius Catholic School, Barnes intends to pursue a career in public relations.
For her, it would be her greatest honour to one day represent the Cayman Islands on the world stage – whether in the Olympics or the Diamond League and that eventually she wants to open her own youth sports organisation; a place where she can share her experiences, resources, give guidance and opportunities to the youth who need it most.