Spotlight on Former Athlete: Winston Track 1993-96 and Sheronia Walker Sinclair Track 1994-97
Sinclair, Walker running roots run deep
By Bruce Brown
Winston Sinclair's reputation preceded him.
By the time the Jamaican born sprinter arrived at then-USL in the mid-1990's, it was already well documented that he was a great talent in the 400 meters, 400 intermediate hurdles, 200 and even the 100 for relay purposes.
He was also known as an athlete who, by his own admission, was willing to work harder than anyone around him to succeed.
Sheronia Walker was a successful quarter miler in her own right when she joined the Ragin' Cajun women's program shortly after Sinclair arrived to spark the men's fortunes.
And, as a Jamaican, Walker also knew of Sinclair's legend.
She had no idea that Sinclair would ask her out, or that they would eventually marry and have three children in a union that reached 20 years this year.
But that's what fate had in store for the talented couple, who attended this year's Louisiana Classics meet in March and try to return on a semi-annual basis.
“Growing up, I knew of him,” Sheronia said, taking a break from the meet. “Everybody in Jamaica knew Winston. But I never met him until I came here. They called him Big Black in Jamaica. We met one summer, and he asked me for a date.
“I remember he had a foul mouth. I had to work with him on that. But, he could cook really well.”
Still can, apparently.
“I can cook well,” Winston said. “It was one of those things. It's just a cultural thing back home. I cooked a lot. People would ask for my curry chicken and dumplings.”
Both got cooking on the track for coach Charles Lancon and sprint coach Tommy Badon, who built a dominant program with the right mix of domestic and foreign talent.
Winston, a 2010 inductee into the UL Sports Hall of Fame, was an All-American in the 400 hurdles in 1994 with a Sun Belt Conference record 49.77 time. He also had a 46.34 career best in the 400 and teamed with Tim Sensley, Windell Dobson and Joel Chesimet for a 3:16.86 sprint medley mark.
He won 7 SBC titles outdoors and 6 more indoors and was Outstanding Performer at the 1993 and 1996 SBC Outdoors.
In 1993, he won the 400 (46.37), 400 hurdles (51.09) and ran on a winning 4x100 relay (40.13). The next year, he ran a winning 49.77 in the hurdles and helped the 4x100 to a 40.19. Then in 1996, he took the 400 (46.91) and hurdles (50.15).
Indoor crowns came in 1993 (400), 1994 (400), 1995 (200, 400) and 1996 (200, 400).
As a team, the Cajuns won seven straight Sun Belt outdoor titles from 1992-98, as well as indoor crowns in 1992, 1993, 1995 and 1996.
The women were champions outdoors in 1993 and 1997, and indoors in 1993.
“It was a challenging era,” Winston said. “We were multi-cultural, with athletes from Jamaica, Africa, Puerto Rico and Canada. Everyone wanted to be the best. It was very competitive.
“We came out and trained hard, and that allowed us to reach our potential.”
No one trained harder than Sinclair, who was motivated by circumstances he turned to his favor.
“I was on scholarship at Central State University,” he said. “I had an ankle problem, and the coach felt I wasn't performing like I needed to. When I got here, I was motivated to prove that coach wrong. I trained hard.
“I ran on the Jamaican Junior Commonwealth Games team, and finished fourth in the NCAA in 1994. Everything happens for a reason.”
That burning desire began early in life.
“Track and field is a pathway for most athletes in Jamaica,” Sheronia said. “We don't take it lightly. Everyone works hard in order to get a scholarship.”
“Our high school championships are like a small NCAA meet,” Winston said. “The championships are where the elite athletes put on a show for the country.”
“Winston was known throughout Jamaica,” Sheronia said. “There was an announcer who would list all an athlete's accomplishments before his event, and it would take 5 minutes to read off everything Winston had done.”
“There was nothing like that meet, where you would come down the tunnel, get introduced and look over at the crowd in the grandstand,” he said.
Like her future husband, Sheronia excelled in the quarter mile.
In 1995, she teamed with SuSu Jolivette, D'Nais Jones and Wassan Cook for a victorious 3:47.44 in the Sun Belt 4x400 relay. Then in 1996, the team of Beverley Langley, Jones, Keisha Ray Owens and Walker clocked an SBC-winning 3:40.16.
She also got two indoor titles in the 4x400, in 1995 and 1997.
“Our high school coach emphasized how we ran the curve,” Sheronia said. “Then you would go back with the pack on the backstretch.
“Here at USL, I ran cross country to prepare me for indoors. And in 1995, I had my best year. Coach Badon also had us running stadium steps. I had never worked that hard before.
“It was nothing to wake up on a Saturday morning and run 10 miles. But that gave us the foundation that helped carry us.”
Both husband and wife excelled as anchors on Cajun 4x400 relays, and relished that duty.
“The team is depending on you, whether you're ahead or behind, to come through for them,” Sheronia said. “You run for yourself, too. It's a wonderful feeling. You know when you're done, it's going to hurt, but you don't worry about that until it's done.
“Coach Badon expected nothing but the best. He would run with you all the way around the (inside of the) track.”
“The 400 hurdles was always my pet event,” Winston said. “I went out too hard at the NCAAs, but I wouldn't do it any differently from lane 8. You go out and try to hold on.
“I liked anchoring the 4x400,” he added. “You're out there, it's the last race of the day and people are waiting to see who will win the meet. As the anchor leg, you're the one who's going to carry it home.”
Sinclair, who looks like he could have stepped on the track and won the Classics 400 intermediates, is an accountant. Sheronia is in nursing. Both withstood academic rigors to compete for the Cajuns.
“You don't want to lose your scholarship, so you find ways to be successful,” Sheronia said. “USL also had a good tutoring program to help athletes.”
“Both athletics and academics require full commitment and discipline,” Winston said.
All three Sinclair offspring – daughter Mahica, 13; Joshua, 9; Winston, 5 – are expected to perform well in the classroom before they can consider extra activities.
“They have to be 'A' students,” Sheronia said.
As for athletics, the couple takes a measured approach.
“They're into athletics, but there's no need to push them,” Winston said. “Let them ease themselves into it.”
The young family lives in Fort Worth, and the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex has a million more residents than their Jamaican homeland. But few are doubting their ability to make a name for themselves or their offs[ring in the Lone Star State.
That pattern of success was established long ago.
“Whatever team I was on,” Winston Sinclair said, “I was always the hardest worker on the team.
“We had great expectations at USL. We always had that feeling, and that keeps you motivated. We were competitive guys. You want to be the best.”
* * * * * * * *
L-R: Winston & Sheronia Sinclair family, Dr. David Fisher, Sonya Sanchez Garcia and Edgar at the March 20, 2010 Track and Field Reunion.
Click here to view the photo gallery of the 2010 Track and Field Reunion.
* * * * * * * *
Click here for the chronological listings of the Spotlight on Former Athletes.