Jamaica’s junior athletics starlets are set to shine when the 2015 edition of the most anticipated high school track and field meet on the planet – ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys & Girls Championships (“Champs”) – gets going inside the National Stadium on Tuesday, March 24. Featuring a couple thousand of ‘em on my Champs watch list wasn’t exactly feasible, so here’s the next best thing.
- Jaheel Hyde (Wolmer’s Trust High School for Boys)
Hyde will be the most decorated athlete to grace the National Stadium track during Champs 2015. The reigning World Youth 110-metre hurdles champion and record holder seems likely to contest both the Class 1 110-metre hurdles and the 400-metre hurdles, in which he’s also the current World Junior champion. If he goes in the former, a tantalizing showdown between the 18 year old Wolmer’s sensation and Class 2 sprint hurdles conqueror Michael O’Hara could be on the cards. One thing’s for sure: records will fall.
- Christopher Taylor (Calabar High School)
15 year old Taylor might just be the hottest commodity in high school track and field right now. Barring an act of God, the freshly minted age-group world record holder should comfortably run away with the Class 2 400m title. Devaughn Baker’s existing Class 2 record time of 46.64 seconds definitely appears to be living on borrowed time. How much lower than that once stunning mark will the phenom go, though? Only time will tell.
- Michael O’Hara (Calabar High School)
World Junior 200m bronze medalist O’Hara is as versatile as they come. The former Class 2 110-metre hurdles champion and current record holder has already reeled off a 10.23 second clocking in the 100-metre event this season, which was made all the more impressive by the fact that he had to overcome a typically slow start. He’s primed to set personal bests – and records, possibly – in just about any individual event he ultimately decides to contest at Champs.
- Martin Manley (St. Jago High School)
Even while winning the Youth Olympic Games 400-metre title in China last year, Manley looked short of the form which lifted him to a stunning 45.89 second personal best clocking and World Youth one-lap crown in 2013. However, a couple strong showings over 800 metres early in the season suggested that he was on the path back to sub-46. It’s realistically the type of time he’ll need to have any hope of beating the KC duo of Akeem Bloomfield and Twayne Crooks to the Class 1 400m crown.
- Akeem Bloomfield (Kingston College)
Bloomfield looked destined for great things before an injury felled him in the final of the Class 2 100m event at Champs last year. He proved that he was all the way back – and even better than before – by loping to a then world-leading 45.41 second time at CARIFTA Trials a couple weeks ago. Slightly better pacing could see him push his personal best even lower next Saturday. (That’s assuming that he does run the gruelling event which, by his own admission, he isn’t exactly enamoured with just yet.) A potential showdown with O’Hara over 200 metres is also a mouthwatering prospect.
- Saqukine Cameron (Edwin Allen High School)
A slightly wind-aided 23.80 second clocking for CARIFTA Under-17 200m silver in 2010 clearly marked the then 13 year old Cameron out as a potential future star of Jamaican athletics. Unfortunately, a spate of injuries in the intervening years has limited her impact. Seemingly back to full fitness, she quickly reminded all and sundry of her capabilities by slamming a quality Under-20 200m field by well over half a second at CARIFTA Trials. It would take a brave man (or woman, for that matter) to bet against her repeating the dose at Champs.
- Natalliah White (St. Jago High School)
Despite copping the Under-20 100m title at CARIFTA Trials, Youth Olympic 200-metre champ White looked decidedly short of her best in her favoured 200-metre event that followed. She’ll again have her hands full dealing with a rejuvenated Saqukine Cameron, who gapped her by 8/10ths of a second in that half-lap race, in the Class 1 event at the premier high school meet. It’ll be very interesting to see how she responds to that setback. How she handles the talented field that’ll be nipping at her heels in the 100 metres should also make for very intriguing viewing.
- Raheem Chambers (St. Jago High School)
Last year’s Class 2 100-metre champion and record-setter is the consummate big event performer. To my mind, he only gave us his “B” start when finishing second to the accomplished Michael O’Hara in the Under-20 100-metre final at CARIFTA Trials earlier this month. Yet, despite this, he still managed a highly respectable 10.48 second clocking into a stiff 1.5 metre per second headwind. The aforementioned O’Hara was only 0.03 seconds ahead at the line. If he’s able to replicate the start he got in the Class 2 “bills” final last year, he could turn the tables on the Calabar man at Champs.
- Kimone Shaw (St. Jago High School)
Class 4 100m record holder Shaw will be looking to rebound from a somewhat disappointing Champs 2014 campaign, which saw her finish fourth in the Class 3 100m final and second in the 200m decider. The reigning Under-18 CARIFTA 100-metre queen turned in a respectable 11.67 second seasonal best effort in her pet event a couple weeks ago to signal her readiness for a return to the top step of the podium. She’ll have most to fear from the plucky (and fast) Kiara Grant, but should prevail over her younger, more diminutive rival. However, we mightn’t see her at her fastest until the IAAF World Youth Championships rolls around later this year.
- Jhevaughn Matherson (Kingston College)
Most of us haven’t seen this 16 year old starlet since an apparent injury put a hitch in his giddyup at Gibson McCook Relays in late February. If he’s fully fit and firing on all cylinders, he’ll start favourite to win the Class 2 100m and 200m double. Resetting both records is also something that could happen in the process. However, if he’s still short of a gallop, it will open the door for the likes of first-year Class 2 athlete Tyreke Wilson, who he outclassed when they last met in Class 3, to possibly beat him to the post.
- Tyreke Wilson (Calabar High School)
A silky smooth exhibition of high-speed sprinting saw Wilson, last year’s Class 3 double sprint supremo, stop the clock at 10.45 seconds over the 100-metre distance earlier this month. One would think that a favourable tailwind on the day could see him get down into the 10.3x range when the Class 2 100-metre final is run on Friday evening. As impressive as that would be for a 15 year old, I’m actually more excited about what he’s likely to do over double that distance – 200 metres. He’s stronger and faster than last year when he reeled off a stunning record run of 21.72 seconds into a 2.7 metre per second gale. The efficiency of his mechanics, however, is still nonpareil. That bodes very well for the possibility of record-breaking fireworks.
- Rochelle Frazer (Edwin Allen High School)
18 year old Frazer is the latest hotshot to roll off Edwin Allen’s humming production line of female throwers. The reigning Class 1 shot put champion sounded a stern early warning to all who might have been entertaining thoughts of opposing her dominance with massive heaves (by Jamaican standards) of 14.96 metres and 50.40 metres in the shot and disc respectively back in January. Since then, her performances have tailed off a bit though. If, however, she’s able to rediscover her best form, both Tara-Sue Barnett’s 51.16m Class 1 discus record and Danniel Thomas’ 14.47m absolute shot best (from the Open shot put era) could fall.
- O’Brien Waysome (Jamaica College)
Waysome took the CARIFTA Trials Under-20 horizontal jumps double with useful marks of 7.45 metres in the long and 15.91 metres in the triple. These efforts followed a 16-metre jump that wasn’t? back in January. He could just be the best male combo jumping talent we’ve unearthed since… well… since national long and triple jump record holder James Beckford. That mythical 16-metre triple jump (by Jamaican junior standards) is surely just around the corner. It could finally happen at Champs 2015. His coach is definitely confident that it’ll come to pass.
- Tamara Moncrieffe (Holmwood Technical High School)
Moncrieffe scared the living daylights out of Kim Williams’ Open triple jump record last year, cutting the sand just one centimetre shy of the former Vere standout’s resilient 13.52 metre standard. Seemingly putting her plan to attend university in the US on hold has presented her with a last chance to rewrite Champs triple jump history. The reigning CARIFTA Under-20 hop, skip, and jump mistress, who floated out to seasonal best 12.99 metres at CARIFTA Trials earlier this month, seems to be hitting her stride at just the right time. This could mean that 13.52 will be subjected to another torrid time at Champs 2015.
- Jauvaney James (St. Elizabeth Technical High School)
James’ “grown man” tactical awareness and racing acumen set him apart from the local junior middle distance crowd. However, like almost every other young Jamaican middle or long distance athlete out there, he seemingly does just enough to win each race. A recent sub-1:54 effort suggests that he is in the kind of shape required to launch a serious assault on Aldwyn Sappleton’s long-standing Class 2 800m record. However, as is his wont, the reigning double CARIFTA Under-18 1,500m and 3,000m champ might just do enough to win once again. He should also be right at the head of the pack in the three and three-quarter lap event.
High-flying defending Class 2 high jump champ Lushane Wilson (St. Jago High School) has already equalled or exceeded national junior record holder Christoff Bryan’s Class 2 standard of 2.10 metres at least twice this season. The third such occurrence could take place on Saturday afternoon inside the National Stadium.
The precocious Lamara Distin (Rusea’s High School) won the Under-18 high jump at CARIFTA Trials with a 1.75m personal best clearance. One of those left in her wake on that occasion was current Class 3 record holder Shiann Salmon, whose 1.78m record also appears to be under threat.
A spiffy 400-400 hurdles double at CARIFTA Trials has last year’s Class 2 800-metre winner Junelle Bromfield (St. Elizabeth Technical High School) poised to play a major starring role at Champs 2015. The combination of events in which this versatile long sprinter is ultimately sent should be very interesting.
Enjoy the show, folks!