A total of fifteen records fell on the track and in the field over the four days (10 – 13 April) of the XXXVIII CARIFTA Games which closed yesterday (13).
The George Odlum Stadium, proclaimed by North and Central American and Caribbean Athletics Confederation (NACAC) president, Neville “Teddy” McCook as the best stadium in the Caribbean, saw over 500 athletes from 26 territories giving their all and demonstrating why CARIFTA is considered one of the world’s foremost development meets.
Victor Lopez, president of the Caribbean Athletic Confederation, supported the stadium’s claim as the finest in the region, and went on to advise that whoever ends up hosting the Games in 2009 will find it hard to surpass the show put on in St Lucia.
It started on Good Friday with a surprise gold medal for the hosts and a new record for CARIFTA wonder girl Natoya Goule. It continued with the fabulous Kirani James making his under-20 men’s debut and blasting away not only the field, but also Usain Bolt’s six-year-old meet record for the 400m dash. That feat earned young Kirani the Austin Sealy Award as the most outstanding athlete of the 2009 CARIFTA Games. It was always going to be his to lose, but there would have been little argument had the award gone to any of the likes of Goule, Gavyn Nero or even young Shericka Jackson of Jamaica.
A crowd of some 6000 came in on the final day to witness records falling, and success for the host nation.
An upset and a record in 4x400m relays
Last year, Jamaica had to settle for “just” two of the four sprint relay titles – this year, they secured them all.
They were set to do the same in the 4x400m series, winning the first three races, but the final event produced the drama that typified these Games. Jamaica was well set after the first leg, with hurdler Dwayne Extol. Trinidad & Tobago’s Nero, though, would have none of it, dragging his team near level on the second shift. Just after Jamaica’s Sheldon Williams handed off to World Junior Championship silver medallist Nickel Ashmeade, 400m Hurdles champion Jehue Gordon got the baton, and in the end, his speed endurance told, as the team from the Land of the Hummingbird erupted in celebration.
Meanwhile, in the under-17 girls division, a team featuring 800m champion Chris Ann Gordon, 400m record holder Jackson and intermediate hurdles record holder Janieve Russell would have taken some beating. Instead, they beat the Bahamas (3:45.61) and Trinidad & Tobago (3:50.61) into second and third, and in the process broke a five-year-old Games record, running 3:38.09 to supplant the record of 3:39.50 previously set by a team that included the likes of World Junior Championship silver medallist Sonita Sutherland and WJC bronze medallist Sherene Pinnock.
In the under-17 boys category, Jamaica beat Trinidad & Tobago and Grenada. In the under-20 girls, they defeated Barbados and Bahamas.
Murphy makes good on the double
The last day at CARIFTA is when double champions are crowned. Well worthy is Jahazeel Murphy, the latest Jamaican sprinting sensation. Just 15 this year, he won the 100m dash earlier on the weekend, after running 5 hundredths of a second out of the Games record in the semi-final, he made no mistake in the 200m, blasting away Dexter Lee’s 2007 record of 21.09, running 20.97with a trailing wind of just 1.4 metres per second and leaving the likes of Trinidad & Tobago’s Johnathan Holder (21.36) and Delano Williams (21.62) of Turks & Caicos in his wake.
The Jamaican camp may say that they were unsurprised, but Nivea Smith of the Bahamas had not lost a CARIFTA 200m dash in three years. It seems fourth time was the charm, though, as Smith ran 23.36 seconds to finish second, with Jamaica’s diminutive sensation, Jura Leavy, winning in 23.20 seconds. Third, for the second time this meet, was Allison Peters of the US Virgin Islands.
Shericka Jackson ran 23.62 to win the under-17 title from the Bahamian duo of Antonique Strachan and Rashan Brown. With Barbados’ 100m champion Shekeim Greaves succumbing to a hamstring injury, Nickel Ashmeade and Ramone McKenzie romped home 1-2 for Jamaica, as Rachmil van Lamoen showed his improvement, taking third for the Netherlands Antilles, their only medal.
Campbell strikes gold, resets 5000 mark
Surely disappointed at his inability to overcome rival Gavyn Nero on the opening night, for the second year in a row Kemoy Campbell ended his meet by taking his frustration out on the 5000m run. Next year, he won’t have Nero to contend with, and the double could be virtually a foregone conclusion, as opposed to a possibility.
This time out, though, it was Kemoy Campbell against the clock, the small Jamaican blasting out to a CARIFTA record 14:40.67, just under six seconds better than the mark he set last year. Delohnni Samuel of St Vincent & the Grenadines, this year minus the dreadlocks, earned his country’s only medal a minute later, with Matthew Wright of Barbados pressing hard in third.
Wind robs Beckles, who leads hurdle series
Central Arizona College freshman Kierre Beckles was in a record-breaking mood in St Lucia. But her 100m Hurdles mark of 13.43 from 2008 will stay in the books, instead of her 2009 winning mark of 13.31, as she fell victim to the inconsistent winds at this facility, a 2.6 metre per second wind invalidating her record. Ivanique Kemp of Bahamas and Kaymarie Jones of Jamaica took second and third.
In the men’s U20 110m HurdlesTrinidad & Tobago’s Jehue Gordon, put in a performance of 13.86 seconds and successfully held off Dennis Bain of Bahamas and Greggmar Swift of Barbados to take his second title of these Games.
Keenan Davis of Jamaica will have been pleased to win the 100m Hurdles in the under-17 division, but she would also be thrilled to realize that her winning time of 14.15 seconds ought to book her a ticket to the 6th IAAF World Youth Championships, 8-12 July in Bressanone, Sudtirol, Italy (WYC).
The Jamaica team for that meet will be interesting – it could feature CARIFTA bronze medallist Taitanna Wolfe as well, whereas silver medallist Sade-Mariah Greenige could represent Barbados. Stefan Fennell won the 100m under-17 Hurdles for boys, the Jamaican winning over Raphel Jordan of Barbados and Patrick Bodie, Bahamas.
Straightforward wins in 800 series
With a leisurely pace being set in the 800m under-17 girls, and mindful of the upcoming mile relay, Jamaica’s Chris Ann Gordon ran from the front almost from the start, and eased to the line in 2:11.43, punching her ticket to Italy nonetheless, as did second- and third-place finishers Shani Adams and Sonia Gaskin, both of Barbados. Similarly, it was Jamaica-Barbados-Barbados in the boys’ race. Waquar Da Costa was unbothered by the early pace, sat back through the first lap, and was never even pressed until the last 150m, winning in 1:55.70 from Antonio Mascoll and Jerrad Mason, all three boys qualifying for WYC.
The under-20 division produced repeats of last year’s doubles for 1500m record breakers Gavyn Nero and Natoya Goule. Nero ran 1:51.75 to beat Aaron Evans of Bermuda and Kadeem Smith from St Kitts-Nevis in the men’s race. Goule was untroubled in ringing up a time of 2:09.27, more than enough to hold off hard-charging teammate Ristananna Tracey and Alena Brooks of Trinidad & Tobago.
Hometown crowd cheers champions
The first field event of the day, the Long Jump under-20 men, saw last year’s fourth-place finisher coming up against a man who set a CARIFTA record on Saturday, Lenyn Leonce of St Lucia drawn in the same flight as High Jump champion Raymond Higgs of Bahamas. And from his opening jump of 7.31, Higgs declared that he would concede nothing to home pit advantage. But on his third jump, Leonce produced the goods, clearing 7.35m to take a lead he would not relinquish. He went on to add a centimetre on each of his next two trials, meaning that Higgs’ final-round 7.35m was still two centimetres short. Marlon Thompson of Jamaica never improved on his second-round 7.26m and stayed third.
In the other under-20 jump final on the last day, Martinique-based St Lucian Sandisha Antoine looked like a woman among girls from the first round of the Triple Jump, as only three athletes had legal jumps in that round, her 12.43m easily the best of them. Chasing 13m, the 18-year-old eventually ended at 12.91m, although none of her trials resulted in a National Record, thanks to illegal winds of up to 4.1 m/s. Cinthia Battah-Aoufoh had a best performance of 12.54m to take the silver back home to Guadeloupe, and Yushani Durrant added another bronze medal to the one she earned in Long Jump on Saturday.
Three individual champions lined up in Triple Jump under-17 boys. Kemar Jones had won High Jump already, while Keshorn Walcott took Javelin Throw on Sunday. But it was Long Jump champion Julian Forte of Jamaica who would triumph, looking by far the best jumper on display. He hopped, stepped and jumped his way to 14.77m, twice going over the qualifying distance for WYC. Unfortunately, only one of the identical twins Latone and Lathario Minns of the Bahamas qualified for Italy. Latone cleared 14.58m to bypass his brother on round two, whilst Lathario never improved from his 14.39m in round one.
Lacklustre Heptathlon ends in Bahamas gold
The meet record was never in danger in what turned out to be an exhibition event. Darion Dumcombe won 100m Hurdles, Long Jump, 200m dash, Discus Throw and 1500m on his way to 4394 points, followed by Dorodo Fulfolrd and Anthony Clarke of Turks & Caicos. Myriam Sacama-Isidore took gold for Martinique in Javelin Throw under-20 women, throwing 41.43m to beat teammate Laure Mongin and Tesril Nisbett of St Kitts-Nevis.
Robert Collingwood won Shot Put under-20 men with 17.49m to beat teammate and Discus Throw champion Quincy Wilson and Shakir Simmons of Grenada. Ashinia Miller’s throw of 16.62m to win Shot Put under-17 for Jamaica was a centimetre shy of the Games record.
Jamaica tops well-spread table
At the end of Day 4, 20 out of the 26 participating territories were represented in the medal table. Anguilla, Netherlands Antilles and Cayman Islands got a bronze medal apiece. St Kitts-Nevis, last year’s hosts, got two bronze medals. St Vincent & the Grenadines and Antigua-Barbuda took a silver each. Turks & Caicos got a silver and two bronze, bettered by US Virgin Islands with one bronze more. Guadeloupe had two silver, one bronze, Bermuda two silver, four bronze. French Guyana, returning to the CARIFTA fold this year, was 10th overall with gold and bronze. The Commonwealth of Dominica took gold and silver in the same event, whilst Guyana managed one medal of each colour.
Grenada, on the back of James, but with strong performances in the field events as well, got a gold, two silver and four bronze medals. Martinique had 10 total medals, three gold, one silver, six bronze. Bahamas had a relatively disappointing meet, with just three gold medals, 17 silver and eight bronze.
The host nation had its best CARIFTA outing ever, with four gold and two silver medals. Barbados did not meet their pre-Games expectations, with four gold medals, nine silver, eight bronze. Trinidad & Tobago had a great Games, nine gold including several records, 10 silver, 10 bronze. And Jamaica ruled the roost with 39 gold medals, 15 silver and 13 bronze for a total haul of 67.
Interestingly, Jamaica had a relatively rough time in the under-20 men’s division, absent the likes of champion sprinter Dexter Lee. The only individual successes for that team came from Campbell and Ashmeade. The Jamaica challenge was mainly carried by their girls’ team, Goule, Gordon, the Russells, Carrie and Janieve, and the Sherickas, Jackson and Moulton, helping them to come within two of their overall medal total from St Kitts-Nevis 2008.
The CARIFTA Congress Monday morning (13) having decided that the US Virgin Islands will not host the 2010 Games, Cayman Islands are now being considered as a possible venue.
Terry Finisterre for the IAAF
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