Rodney Jerome couldn’t sleep - and that was part of the problem.
Whether it be homework, or just pre-meet anxiousness, something had always kept the Westbury senior from hitting the pillow at a normal hour. Conscious of this -- and how much the inverse could help lower his times -- Jerome made sure he was in bed early before the Autism Awareness Invitational at North Shore High School March 30.
It was part of his new goal to get more sleep.
So far, so good.
Jerome, after waking up at 5:30 a.m. and running in one of the first events of the mid-morning meet, won the 400-meter hurdles in a personal-best one minute, 0.15 seconds. The time was the fastest in Nassau County, as of Monday. Jerome also finished fourth in the 110-meter hurdles in 17.06 seconds – also a personal best, according to milesplit.com.
“I made sure I got a good night sleep, woke up early, ate a good breakfast, and stretched as much as possible right before the meet,” Jerome said. “…To be honest, I was just happy that my time dropped. My [400-hurdle] time dropped from a 61 to a 60 flat. That was pretty impressive.”
Jerome said his momentum was stalled when he hit the seventh hurdle, but was still happy with his ability to finish strong and win.
The morning was not without its jitters, however, and Jerome was able to navigate them almost as well as the hurdles standing in his way.
“I felt really anxious and nervous,” Jerome said. “This was my first invitational meet, so I was trying to see what I was going to do and I did pretty well.”
A good night’s rest is even more important in the outdoor season when many of the March and April invitationals have early start times.
“It really does help,” Jerome said of the added rest.
Jerome is happy that spring has sprung. The indoor season is a struggle for some. Cold practice temperatures, as well as stale indoor track air, makes the season unpopular with many runners.
Count Jerome among them.
“[Spring track] has a different feel than winter does, to be honest,” Jerome said. “I don’t really like winter…when it comes to spring, I just feel all excited and ready to run. I’m going out there to PR. But, winter doesn’t feel that way. It just feels like I’m running just to run.”
Jerome continued: “I like the warm weather. People are happier in the spring than they are in the winter. No one wants to go out in the cold and run in the snow. I mean, I’ll do it anyway because I have to get better and I’m not going to make any excuses just because the weather isn’t good to run.”
Despite not loving the indoor season, Jerome still made it to the Nassau State Qualifier in the 55-meter hurdles, and just missed earning a spot in the finals.
“My winter season wasn’t that bad,” he said. “I [got personal bests] in my events, which is what matters overall. I did well because I made it to state qualifiers. The only bad thing was that I didn’t manage to make it to states. That’s the only think I didn’t like.”
He’d like to make it to the outdoor state championships this year, of course, but also has some concrete time goals to conquer.
“I really want to run 54 [seconds] or lower,” he said. “…I’m working my best every single day to make sure that I achieve that.”
He’s off to a good start. Fast times in late March and early April can be rare, especially for athletes who went far in the indoor season. The fact that Jerome is already on the state leaderboard in the 400-hurdles is a good sign.
“It feels really good,” Jerome said. “Usually, athletes don’t do that well in the beginning. They get better later on. So, this really excited me. It just shows me that I’m going to break into the 50s.”