Having his picture hanging on a wall in the training room was Anton Skerritt’s individual goal when he entered Howard University 32 years ago.
Bestowed on All-Americans, the honour was granted a year before he graduated in 1986.
Skerritt was tickled pink last week when the historically Black University informed him he was going into their Sports Hall of Fame later this year.
He went to Howard University on a soccer scholarship after attending Francis Libermann Catholic High School and Albert Campbell Collegiate Institute where he graduated.
Howard University, whose 1971 soccer championship team comprised 11 starters from the Caribbean and Africa, came calling after he had already signed a letter of intent with Eastern Michigan.
“Those were the only two universities that approached me,” he said. “Going to Howard was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down, so I made the switch. My godmother and some close family friends are Howard graduates. However, I just didn’t see myself going there until they offered me that scholarship.”
Skerritt was one of nine freshmen – they were all from different countries – on the university’s 1982 soccer team. His teammates included Grenadian Windell Thomas, who is an attorney in the United States and Jamaicans Gerald Duggan and Bancroft Gordon, who is a vice-president and corporate secretary with Marriott International Inc. in Washington, D.C.
“I came off the bench my first year and the main reason was because I was not fit enough to be starting,” he said. “To prepare for the next season, I asked the track & field coach if he would allow me to train with his squad in the off-season.”
Impressed with his athletic ability, the coach encouraged Skerritt to pursue a career in the 400-metre event. Two years later, he was representing Trinidad & Tobago at the Los Angeles Olympics.
“Howard did so many things for me,” recalled Skerritt. “I went there as a boy and left as a young man. But the university also opened doors for me. It was because of Howard University alumni that I was able to become an Olympian.”
Washington-based former Howard player and volunteer assistant coach Winston Yallery-Arthur – a family friend who was instrumental in the university offering the scholarship – and his law partner Nigel Scott encouraged Skerritt to travel to Trinidad & Tobago to take part in the Olympic trials.
“I did that and made the qualifying time,” said Skerritt, who left the twin-island republic in his fourth year to join his parents who had migrated a year earlier in 1967. “That was the start of my international track career.”
While soccer was his number one sport, Skerritt dabbled in track and was a Metro 800-metre champion. He missed the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations meet in 1982 because it fell on the same day that he took the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) for college admission to an American university.
“It was June 5 and I will never forget that day because I did the test under duress,” he said. “I was trying to finish in time to get to Centennial Stadium, but that did not happen.”
Skerritt missed the T & T trials to select the team for the 1986 Commonwealth Games because of his participation in the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship.
“There was no way I could miss that because it was the culmination of the season and I was on a scholarship,” he said. “The Trinidad & Tobago track and field officials assured me I would make the team based on my time. I made the qualifying time, but I did not hear from them and my efforts to communicate with them failed.”
T & T’s loss soon became Canada’s gain as Skerritt finished third in the 400-metre event at the Canadian trials and booked his place on the national team for the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, Scotland.
“The only reason I went to Ottawa for those trials was because a friend extended an invitation to me,” recalled the Greater Toronto Area resident who went on to represent Canada at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Skerritt, whose personal best outdoors is 45.62 secs. set at the second International Amateur Athletics Association world championship in Rome in 1987, remains involved in sport as a fitness instructor with Bradford Soccer Club.
He’s also the head of the business department at Milliken Mills High School, an MBA candidate and an active member of the Nubian Book Club established seven years ago by Markham resident, Donna Cardoza.
The club uses literacy as a tool for enhancing leadership, social skills, community engagement, respectful peer relationships and overall student success.
The Howard University Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony takes place in September.