Regional powerhouse Cuba will be absent from the XVII Central America and Caribbean Junior Track & Field Championships scheduled to start at the Hasley Crawford stadium on Friday morning (14 July). The competitions will last for three days.
Apart from Cuba, who finished third in the medals table at the last championships held in Mexico with 12 medals, nine gold and three (Cuba carried a very small contingent to Mexico), Columbia, Antigua, Panama, Haiti, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Venezuela will also be missing from the Championships, which open’s with the women's Under-20 5000m.
Peter Samuels, PRO at the National Amateur Athletics Association, said: "those are all I can confirm at this time, because countries are still coming in as we speak," he said Thursday night.
With Cuba's absence, Jamaica, winners of the last Championships with 57 medals (27G, 13S, 19B), should have little if any problem in dominating this year's Championships. Jamaica will be represented by 70 athletes, 42 juniors and 28 in the Under-17 category. The squad features three 2004 Grosseto World Junior Championships medallists: Schillonie Calvert (4x100m relay), Sonita Sutherland (400m), and Sherene Pinnock (400m hurdles).
Other top athletes already possessing a global CV are Barbados´ Ryan Brathwaite, the 110m Hurdles silver medallist at the 2005 World Youth Championships in Marrakech, and Bermuda’s Arantxa King, who took the Long Jump gold at those Championships.
Mexico who won 33 medals (12G, 14S, 7B) at home in 2004, along with this year's host Trinidad and Tobago 13 (5G, 6S, 2B), and the Bahamas, should provide the keenest athletes aside the Jamaican.
The hosts Trinidad and Tobago represented by a squad of 58 athletes have as their standout star Rhonda Watkins, the women’s long jumper, who has a national junior record best from this year of 6.56m. The 18-year-old UCLA athlete also has a national record PB of 1.82m in the High Jump. She will contest both events attempting to defend the titles she won in Mexico.
Samuels said every thing is in place for Friday morning's start. The newly installed was completed one day before the start of the Championships.
Jamaica's World Junior Championships medallists, Sonita Sutherland who won silver in the 400m in Marrakech, and Sherene Pinnock, 400m Hurdles from the same Championships, along Schillonie Calvert, bronze medallist from last year's World Junior, are the top athletes in action today.
"It's going to be a very keen Championships. It's going to be a fast track and with the World Junior Championships within a month time - 11th IAAF World Junior Championships, 15 - 20 August, Beijing, China - a lot of athletes will be gunning for qualification mark," confirmed Samuels.
Anthony Foster for the IAAF