Another meet, another record for Candice Scott

Every time she competes, Candice Scott's goal is quite simple. All she wants to do is improve. She figures if she improves, the winning will take care of itself.

"There is always room for improvement," says the eight-time All-America in the weights and throws for the Florida Gators women's track team. "That's what I always say and it seems pretty simple because no matter how good you are, there is room for improvement. Nobody's perfect but nobody's going to ever get better if they don't try to improve every time out."

For the soft-spoken senior from Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, nearly every meet is an exercise in improvement. Already the NCAA record holder in the (20-pound) weight throw coming into the season, she has broken her own record three times this season. Friday, Candice Scott recorded a throw of 23.78.m/78-00.25 at the Hoosier Hills Invitational in Bloomington Indiana, breaking her previous record of 23.52m/77-02 which she set at the Florida Intercollegiate on January 15.

Friday night, she placed second in the shot put. She will compete in the shot put, discus and hammer throw in the upcoming outdoor track season. She competed in the hammer throw for Trinidad and Tobago in the Olympics in Athens.

By her own description she's as "laid back as it gets" but deep within her burns a competitive fire that most only see when she's making a throw at a meet.

"People tell me that until they see me compete, they don't realize that I can be intense," she said. "I guess I don't look like I am ever intense but I actually am. Take a look at the beginning of a throw when I'm all focused and then take a look at the end.

"At the end, that's when all the demons come out! That's where I let out all my aggression. It's funny, but the only time it [aggression] ever comes out is when I compete. Other than that, if you see me I'll be laid back as ever."

In the five years at Florida, she's seen steady improvement in each of her events. Coming into this season, she had 47 career victories. The victories are special to her but she is quick to emphasize that the wins and the improvement came at a price.

"My success is because I put in the time and fought through the pain," she said. "I've had four surgeries but each time I came back more determined than ever and I put in the time to get better each time. I'm just this person who understands that you have to pay a price because nothing good ever comes easy."

She learned that attitude back in Port of Spain. Part of it comes from her own desire to do well; part of it comes from her desire to show her coach how much she has improved; and part of it comes from watching her father.

"I always noticed that my father was the kind of person who always got things done no matter how hard it was," she said. "Whatever he needed to do to get the job done, he did it. That's probably where it started in me and it's just grown ever since."

A coach in Port of Spain introduced her to track and field competition. He got her started with the shot and discus and from there, the lights went on. She found something she loved to do and the coach saw the potential.

"What inspired me was that the first time I picked it up and started throwing, my coach saw something in me," she said. "He saw potential so he encouraged me and it just took off from there. It really wasn't easy to learn, but once I got the hang of it, I fell in love with it and I just couldn't stop competing."

She became one of the top female athletes in her native country and that allowed her to compete in both the Junior and regular Pan American games. She placed second in the shot in the 1999 Pan Am Games.

From Trinidad, the next stop was the University of Florida. It was a chance to get a great education and to further her career in track and field. Everything was fine on her arrival in Gainesville until she hit the cafeteria the first time.

"Food shock!" she said. "I had food shock. That was the real culture shock for me. I'm used to food that's well seasoned and nice and spicy, and then I arrive at the cafeteria and oh my! Now you know I like to eat. I mean I really like my food and I have to say that was a big shock. Well, eventually I got used to it but the food had to have some help. A little salt, a lot of black pepper, some Tabasco sauce and mix up whatever other sauces they have. I had to do something to make it work!"

Being from the islands, and in particular from Trinidad where so many cultures blend together, she also has a distinct liking for curry. When she gets that craving she makes a bee-line for the nearest super market.

"If I got a need for curry I have to go buy some potatoes and chicken and mix it up!" she said. "I just can't wait when I have to have my curry! I'm an island girl! You know we have to have our curry!"

Getting used to life without cricket took some adjusting, too. While football, baseball and basketball are national obsessions in the United States, in Trinidad and Tobago, the game is cricket.

"It's not just the game, you see," she explained. "Cricket is a social gathering for us. Matches last a long, long time, sometimes four or five days. We sit down and have a good time. We have a party and we catch up on all the news. You enjoy your drinks and the music. The match is going on. The party is going on. Really, it's something special for us."

She's majoring in recreational therapy, interning this semester at University Care where she works with seniors at this nursing facility. Working with elderly people is a matter of the heart for her. The men and women at University Care can't wait for her to arrive every morning. She leads them in exercises but more importantly, she takes time to listen to them.

"I read the newspaper to them and then take them to the dining hall and I lead exercises, but it's when they talk and tell me things that it's special," she said. "I've not had a chance to really get to know all of them as close as I will, but those I've gotten close to, they tell me stories about their life. It really is a special time for me. I just love working with older people."

The work with elderly people has become so important to her that she intends to stick with it, even on a part-time basis, after she leaves the University of Florida to pursue a professional track and field career.

"Even when I'm gone, I'll be looking for a nursing home where I can at least work part-time," she said. "When you're able to make their lives brighter by even just a little bit, there's nothing in the world like it."

Her career at Florida is drawing to a close. Because of her presence, the Florida women's team has an outstanding chance to win the national championship. Florida will be gunning for its fourth consecutive Southeastern Conference Indoor Track and Field championship and the Gators are the defending Eastern Regional champions in the NCAA. The Gators finished second in the NCAA Indoor championships and in the top ten in the outdoor championships.

While she will likely win the NCAA championship in the weight throw and will be a strong favorite to retain her hammer throw title in the outdoors, it's the team championship that is her main goal.

"Wouldn't it be so sweet to finish off all this with a championship?" she asked. "You know we have a pretty good team and as long as everything is clicking on the same day, we're good to go and we could do it. We really could. That would be sweet wouldn't it?"

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