Four-time Olympian “Superman” Leevan Sands, an assistant coach with the Northern Colorado Bears, has helped in the addition of a couple of Bahamians to the school’s roster for the fall semester. Legendary Bahamian athlete Sands is preparing to start his second year with the institution in Greeley, Colorado, USA.
The two athletes he successfully recruited to the school are local standouts Wendira Moss and Craiesha Johnson. Moss is expected to run the 200 and 400 meters (m), and Johnson is expected to compete in the 400m and 400m hurdles while at the University of Northern Colorado.
As mentioned, Sands is embarking on his second year at Northern Colorado after some years of running his own club in Auburn, Alabama. Moss was his first recruit and he looks forward to signing more Bahamians in the future.
“Wendira signed from the end of last year. When I first decided to take the job that was like my number one goal – to look out for my fellow Bahamian junior athletes first. Wendira is one of the top quarter-milers for The Bahamas in high school. She was one of my first signees which was big for the school. I know more will follow,” he said. “My number one goal is to give Bahamian junior athletes more opportunities to pursue an education abroad. It is my number one goal to give people from my country an opportunity to improve themselves as track athletes and in the educational field as well.”
The altitude at Northern Colorado is just about 5,000 feet above sea level, and it gets extremely cold. Despite that, Johnson is excited to be on the roster.
“I am very ecstatic. I chose that college because I wanted a new start, meaning a new environment with a different weather. As a child I always wanted to live in a cold place and going to this university would be living a childhood dream,” Johnson said. She just graduated from Queen’s College this past Friday and she is hoping to not just add to the program with her talent but to bring her joyful spirit as well. She intends to major in biology.
Johnson’s personal best time in the 400m hurdles is 1:02.65 – a time she ran in March at the Bahamas Association of Independent Secondary Schools (BAISS) Track and Field Championships. In the 400m, she has a best time of 57.99 seconds.
Several schools reached out to Moss, but Northern Colorado was her choice because they had the academic major she wanted to pursue – criminology and criminal justice/forensic science.
“Northern Colorado was the only school I looked at who had forensic science and biochemistry on the academic program. Also, the school is 5,000 feet above sea level and training in that atmosphere as a 400m female athlete would help me to run faster and easier when I do get to compete at sea level. In addition, I didn’t want to go to a school that is popular or to a school that has a lot of students. I wanted to go to a school that I could help build up academically and also on the track,” Moss said.
Moss, a former CARIFTA athlete, said that the students and coaches there made her feel like family when she visited the campus. Her personal best time in the 200m is 24.13 seconds and in the 400m she has a personal best of 54.94. Moss left St. John’s College as a double champion, winning the BAISS 200 and 400m titles in March. This past season, she was hoping to lower her times, but was unable to do so. Nevertheless, she is optimistic about her freshman year as she hopes to run “spectacular” times and to do well in her class while remaining injury-free.
Sands said the head coach for the Bears, Wayne Angel, is very experienced and has coached several Olympians in the 400m and 400m hurdles.
Sands said he was familiar with Johnson’s coach Everette Fraser. He said he had an opportunity to see Moss train and said she reminded him of former Bahamian Olympic quarter-miler Avard Moncur with long strides. He said that Johnson has a lot of potential although she just started running the 400m hurdles. He said he is looking forward to both athletes dropping their times.
Having Sands there means a lot, said Moss and Johnson. For Johnson, she knows that she will be in good hands. Moss said Sands being there means she will have someone to talk to and make her feel safe.
The two competed against each other in the Government Secondary Schools Sports Association (GSSSA) Junior Track and Field Championships when Moss ran for T.A. Thompson Junior High School and Johnson for C.H. Reeves. Johnson said she is happy to have Moss there with her.
“It’s amazing because me and Wendira have been friends from grade eight where we competed against each other in GSSSA and we have grown closer over the years, so it’s great having someone like her around to encourage and push me,” Johnson said.
Moss said it is amazing to have a fellow athlete there who she knows.
Bahamian national record holder Sands just wrapped up his first season at Northern Colorado, helping out in the triple, long and high jumps. He helped several jumpers to obtain personal best leaps and one of his triple jumpers made school history by winning silver at the conference indoor championships.
The season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sands was looking forward to seeing his athletes in the outdoor season, but will now have to wait for next season.
Locally, Moss is coached by her father Randy Moss at Galaxy Invaders Track Club. Johnson trains under coaches Everette Johnson and Wynsome Cash at Fast Forward Track Club.
The Bears competes in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I in the Big Sky conference.