San Juan, Puerto Rico enjoyed a record heat wave on Thursday (26), followed by showers on Friday (27). But on Saturday morning (28 May) at the Sixto Escobar Stadium it was beautiful weather for track and field, with plenty of sunshine and a stiff wind blowing off the sea.
The inaugural North and Central American and Caribbean (NACAC) Combined Events Championships got underway with 28 athletes (15 women in Decathlon, 13 men in Decathlon) from nine member nations.
At the end of the day, the Heptathlon results presented no great surprises, but there seems to be a passing of the torch between generations taking place in Decathlon.
DECATHLON - Smith leads the Americans
Jamaica’s Maurice Smith is surely coming into his own in this event. If he maintains his form on Sunday, he could surpass the Central American and Caribbean record of 8252 points (Raúl Duany, Cuba) as well as the Jamaica record of 8225, held by Claston Bernard.
Smith started the opening day with a fine run in the 100m, taking advantage of a trailing wind measuring 2.5 metres per second. His time of 10.71 was easily the fastest on the day, and a new personal best in that event for the 24-year-old.
Smith got a trailing wind of 3.2m/s win in the Long Jump, his 7.22m effort another personal best. Winning milestones in the Shot Put (15.80m) and 400m (48.54) earned him more points, but a lackluster height of 1.98m in High Jump allowed him to be reeled in.
Harlan and Terek giving chase
Doing the reeling was Ryan Harlan, who overcame a weak 100m (11.05) and Long Jump (6.97) to post strong marks in the Shot Put (15.79), High Jump (2.07, winning that event) and the quarter-mile (49.65). Harlan has 4194 points, Smith has 4299.
The battle to the wire seems to be bringing out the best in the young Jamaican, but it’s also bringing out the best in Paul Terek. The 25-year-old Californian scored 4144 on the first day, with his strongest event, Pole Vault, yet to come.
Competition for points in Discus Throw and Javelin Throw will be stiff, and this entire competition could be decided in dramatic fashion at the death. If Smith, Harlan and Terek go over 8000 Sunday, it will be the first time three men have done that in Puerto Rico.
Trailing the top three are Chris Boyles (4057) a third American, and Jamie Adjetey-Nelson (3939) of Canada. Guatemala’s Octavious Gillespie (3812) is next, with Puerto Rico’s Steven Marrero (3708) the next best competitor after the first day of competition.
HEPTATHLON - American women out front
True to form, the Americans lead the Heptathlon. Born in Manchester, England, and fresh off setting her personal best in April, 24-year-old Fiona Asigbee has 3640, her best-ever Day 1 score. With improvements in three events, she’s on course for another PB.
Asigbee won the 100m Hurdles in 13.63 seconds (easily bettering her previous mark of 13.91), with a trailing wind of 1.5m/s. She cleared 1.82m to win High Jump, another PR. She also improved in Shot Put (12.48m), but 24.72 left her second in the 200m.
Tracey Lawyer-Thomas is on a good pace, less than 15 points away from Asigbee. She owes her 3626 to strong performances in Shot Put (13.22m) and 200m (24.45) whilst her marks for Hurdles (13.72, with a 2.8m/s wind) and High Jump (1.76m) have been decent.
The third American, Jackie Poulson, is well off the leaders. With just 3188 going into Day 2, (14.56/+2.8, 1.61m, 12.02m, 25.10/+1.5) she is not having a great meet. Nor is Nadina Marsh, the young Jamaican ending the opening day with 3139 (14.40/+2.8, 1.70m, 10.69m, 26.13/+1.2).
Rivera in form for PB
The hometown crowd will have been thrilled with Yaritza Rivera, who turned in a Day 1 record 3123. The 20-year-old should eclipse her PR of 4844, already having turned in her career best marks for Hurdles (14.63/+1.5), High Jump (1.70m) and 200m (26.39/+1.5).
After starting off with 3117 (14.24/+1.5, 1.58m, 11.66, 25.73/+1.2) Diana Ibarguen would have to have a pretty good Sunday to overtake Zorobabelia Cordoba’s Colombia national record. Puerto Rico’s Coralys Ortiz (3056 - 14.45/+2.8, 1.58m, 11.23m, 25.76/+1.5) and Colombia’s Nazlhy Perea (3038 - 14.96/+1.5, 1.70m, 10.85m, 26.54/+1.2) complete the top eight.
Terry Finisterre for the IAAF