Jamaica is inarguably the Caribbean leader in athletics, recently honing their prowess in the field events to bolster a seemingly never-ending production line of outstanding sprinters. Through the years, their main rivals have been The Bahamas, but every country, from Trinidad & Tobago or Barbados to St Kitts-Nevis or Anguilla, feels that there are areas in which they can compete with the mighty Jamaicans. That is the uniqueness of the CARIFTA Games, and as always, the second day (Sunday, 24) of this year's meet, at Montego Bay's Catherine Hall Sports Complex, saw crowds growing, temperatures rising and rivalries flaring up.
Records in two out of four throws
After an opening day on which the boisterous Bahamian cheering section had good reason to be in great voice, the second day got underway with immediate medal success for the host nation, and in record-setting fashion. Christopher Brown, not to be confused with the Bahamian quarter-miler, kicked proceedings off by winning the under-17 boys Shot Put. The best effort from the Julian Robinson-coached Calabar product was 17.42m, beating the mark of 16.99m set by fellow countryman Chadrick Dacosta in the Cayman Islands last year, and just off the 17.60m IAAF World Youth Championships qualifying mark.
There was a bit of a wait for the day's second record, but it was well worth it. In winning the under-20 men's Javelin Throw in his first year at that level last year, Trinidad & Tobago's Keshorn Walcott had already shown hints of greatness. Coming into Montego Bay as defending champion, he was in ominous form, breaking Jean Rene Ceykan's 24-year-old record of 65.52m by over three metres, and then extending that by a further three. Keshorn ended with a best throw of 72.04m, and with a year left in the junior ranks, the sky into which he so loves to let fly that spear could indeed be the limit for this youngster.
Keshorn notwithstanding, the throws have become an area of strength for Jamaica the last few years. Sashagay Marston won the under-20 women's Discus Throw with a best mark of 45.26m, leading a Jamaica 1-2 with Kellion Knibb (42.49m) taking silver. Gleneve Grange, the busiest woman at CARIFTA, threw 35.36m to win the under-17 girls Javelin Throw. Last year, Gleneve exited CARIFTA with gold in the Shot Put, silver in the Discus Throw and bronze in the Javelin Throw. She repeated as Shot Put champion on Saturday, still has Discus Throw on Monday and also competed in the women's open Pentathlon.
The throws programs in Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago are producing fine results, as is being evidenced by the presence of the Caribbean's young throwers at international level. The French overseas departments of Martinique and Guadeloupe have always put out good talent in that event group as well, and the Windward Islands of Grenada, St. Lucia and the Commonwealth of Dominica have had some success in throws, but if they are to compete with The Land of Wood and Water and The Land of The Hummingbird, they will have to plan carefully and allocate the resources needed to attain consistency.
Da Veiga, Jones maintain overnight leads
Comfortably ahead after the first day in the women's Pentathlon, 2009 champion Audilia Da Veiga did enough to take the gold medal back to Martinique, finishing second in Long Jump and third in the 800m run for a total of 3769 points. The battle was on for the minor medals, with eventual silver medallist Devinn Catwright of Bahamas amassing enough points in Long Jump to hold on to that spot with 3380, and Jamaica's Grange climbing into third place on 3321 past St Lucia's Sharnique Leonce, who was forced to pull out of the event when she fell with about 200m remaining in the final event, the 800m.
For the young men, the morning opened with the top two athletes battling it out in High Jump. Kemar Jones of Barbados, the overnight leader, won with 2.01m, but Andell Joseph's mark of 1.98m was enough to keep the pressure on. The Grenadian could have exploited that pressure in what is probably Jones' weakest event, but while the young man from Queens College could manage only 22.85m, his Grenadian counterpart (Hillsborough Secondary) could do no better than 29.98m. There were just seven seconds separating them in the 1500m as they finished 1-2, and at the end, Jones had amassed 4662 points, Joseph 4581.
Multiple title repeats for Jones
World Youth Championships qualifier in girls High Jump and a repeat CARIFTA champion in that event as of Saturday, Akela Jones of Barbados took aim at her second gold medal of these Games on Sunday, this time in under-17 Long Jump. As it had to some degree in her prior event, the defending champion's rhythm was failing her, and she had to come from behind to win on this occasion. But win she did, with a best distance of 5.66m some 5cm ahead of her Jamaican rival, Claudette Allen. But as she prepares for Lille, Akela will know that she has a lot of work to do in order to fulfill her immense talent.
Jamaica almost swept the rest of the day's jumping events. Cristoffe Bryan cleared 2.10m and missed a Games record of 2.13m in under-17 boys High Jump; at 15 he will be back next year in Bermuda. Nickeva Wilson won under-20 women's Triple Jump with a mark of 12.83m. And 17-year-old Xavier Boland cleared 4.40m to win men's Pole Vault from 2009 champion Shem Edward of St Lucia, who lost on more misses. The only other jumping event to escape the Jamaicans was under-20 men's Long Jump. Genard Paul leaped 7.19m for Grenada's first gold. Jamaica's 17-year-old Clive Pullen cleared a WYC-qualifying mark of 7.15m for second.
Brief interruption in Jamaican domination
Not seeing a Jamaican on the podium at all is a rare thing, but that was the case in the 3000m run series. In the women's category, Hughnique Rolle clocked in at 10:27.32 to take gold for Bahamas, Ashley Berry crossed the line in 10:44.24 for Bermuda and 14-year-old Kendra Richards stopped the clock in 10:56.28 for Grenada. For the under-17 boys, Nicholas Landeau, a silver medallist last year, improved by 23 seconds and one podium place. He ran 8:47.05 to win for Trinidad & Tobago. Rochini Vorstwijk ran 9:14.89 for Suriname and another Bermudan copped a distance medal, 9:15.21 earning Dage Minors bronze.
Service was back to normal in the long hurdles events. Jamaica's Peta Gaye Williams won the under-17 girls 300m Hurdles with a time of 41.55, edging compatriot Kimone Green by three tenths of a second. Barbados' Dario Scantlebury took the boys race in that age group, running 54.23 to hold off D'Mitry Charlton of Bahamas. Jamaica's Janieve Russell beat Katrina Seymour of the Bahamas 57.71 to 58.04 in the under-20 women's division. And Omar McLeod of Jamaica held his nerve in an untidy under-20 men's race, coming home in 52.42 ahead of Brandon Benjamin (53.22) of Trinidad & Tobago and Tremaine Maloney (53.48) of Barbados.
Full service sprint relays for Jamaica
Devynne Charlton may have won the individual centuuy for Bahamas, but Jamaica's strength in depth came to the fore in the under-17 girls 4x100m relay. Yanique Thompson, Shanice Bonner, individual silver medallist Shauna Helps and Jonielle Smith ran 45.75 to easily despatch Bahamas. In the boys race the Bahamas did not even take silver, boys champion Delano Davis leading them to bronze. Instead it was Raheem Robinson, silver medallist Jevaughn Minzie, Tyler Mason and Rohan Walker running 40.92 and climbing the podium ahead of Trinidad & Tobago, led by 400m champion Machel Cedenio and 100m bronze medallist Nicholas Douglas.
The one individual short sprint that had seen green and gold across the line first (and second) was under-20 men's, so no surprise that champion Jazeel Murphy and silver medallist Kemar Bailey Cole led their team past Trinidad & Tobago. In the women's division, though, Jamaica's Christina Williams, Deandre Whitehorne, Celia Walters and Shericka Jackson decimated their opposition, finishing in a CARIFTA record 44.08, well ahead of the second-placed Trinidad & Tobago in 45.80, but with the Bahamas unfortunately disqualified for passing out of the zone.
The 200m and 800m semifinals series saw very little drama and a good deal of caginess, but the anticipated favourites are all through, and Monday's contests should provide plenty of fireworks. The one race to note amongst the preliminaries, though, was the under-20 women's 200m. In that contest, Anthonique Strachan of the Bahamas bested hometown favourite Shericka Jackson, and in so doing tied the 22.93-second Games record set by none other than Veronica Campbell (of course, no Brown at the time) in 2001. It could be just an appetiser for what ought to be a mouth-watering final on the final day of CARIFTA 2011.
Terry Finisterre for the IAAF