The Championships offered Jean his first opportunity to represent St Vincent and the Grenadines at an international level and he grasped it with both hands. He was even more excited when he made the final team and trained alongside Samori Marksman and Sancho Lyttle. Of course the latter athlete has since shifted sport and is now a fixture on the WNBA in the USA.
The competition at the CAC Age Group Championships was tough. It was Jean’s first exposure to the real world of international athletics. There were Mexican athletes who displayed much greater exposure to the sport. There were athletes from Haiti, Cayman Islands and Puerto Rico as well as several of the English-speaking islands of the Caribbean.
While he was unfortunate not to have won a medal at the Championships, Jean Cummings was nonetheless inspired to take athletics seriously. Four years later Jean stormed through to cop top honours, Victor Ludorum, at the Inter Secondary Schools Championships, 1997. He was at the helm of the St Martin’s Secondary School team to the big event while Thomas was still the PE teacher and the school’s coach.
Over the years, Jean also had the opportunity to work with coaches Gideon Labban and Woodrow ‘Keylee’ Williams, both of whom were instrumental in the young athlete’s understanding of the major technical aspects of the sport. He gradually moved his focus to the Long Jump and sought proficiency.
In September 1997 Jean moved on to the St Vincent Community College which had only just opened its doors for the first time, ushering in a new phase in the nation’s education programming. There he continued his athletics programme receiving coaching in a structured manner from both Labban and Williams.
In the 1998 athletics season Jean’s performances saw him touring with national representative teams. He was a fixture on the national team for the year. He competed at the Carifta Games and again at Grenada’s Whitsuntide Games.
In 1998, while completing his first year at the Community College Jean was being helped to an athletics scholarship at the Morgan State University (MSU), Maryland, USA, largely through the efforts of Catalina Staye and Maulan Byron. Jean’s outstanding academic performance in the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) were, however, sound enough to earn him the attraction and admiration of the MSU’s academic staff. He was instead awarded an academic scholarship, which he readily accepted.
Neville Hodge, himself a former 100m/200m athlete from the US Virgin islands, was the head coach at the MSU’s track and field Department and immediately acknowledged the immense athletics talent that Jean possessed. Jean spent four years at MSU during which time he won Middle Eastern Athletic Conference titles, often setting new competition and stadium records in his favourite event, the long jump. Jean also won gold at the world-renowned Penn Relays and at the IC4A championships. He was also a repeat qualifier for the National Division 1 Championships in the US, winning Team All-America recognition during the 2001 indoor season. For his four consecutive years at MSU Jean took home several awards for his achievements on the field, including three consecutive Athlete of the Year titles.