Being unable to spend precious time with the people I care about the most is undoubtedly the greatest sacrifice I’m presently making in my pursuit of self-actualization. As an unrepentant athletics addict, not being able to ‘osmosize’ all of Jamaica’s domestic track and field action makes the medal podium as well. (It’s kinda hard to soak it all in from my current base of operation in Moriyama, Japan.) Nonetheless, I have been flashing a few glances – between class-filled work weeks and class prep-filled weekends – at the early season happenings back home. Here’s a quick look at some of the athletes (and performances) that have caught my eye.
Britany Anderson (Vere Technical High School)
Anderson has demonstrated confounding dynamism across a wide range of distances and disciplines so far this season. The talented second-year Class III athlete warmed up for 2016 by dipping below the 25-second barrier at Tyser-Mills Classics in December. After logging a nippy 11.88 second clocking over 100 metres at the Purewater/JC Invitational on January 9, Anderson produced a tantalizing triple a week later at the Douglas Forrest Invitational. She covered the half-lap distance in 24.70 seconds, cut the sand at 6.02 metres in the long jump, and soared over 1.68 metres in the high jump.
She’s already voiced her strong desire to cop the sprint double at the upcoming ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys & Girls Championships. This could set the stage for an epic battle in both Class III short sprints at March’s marquee meet. With last year’s Class IV sprint queen Joanne “Felix” Reid already knocking on the door of sub-24 (24.10 seconds at the JAAA/Puma Development Meet), her workload will need to be very carefully managed if she’s to make it to Champs with enough ammunition left to see off the St. Jago phenom. The compact Kiara Grant and the powerful Kevona Davis could also upset her apple cart.
Bethany Bridge (Edwin Allen High School)
Bridge appears to be the latest in a lengthening line of super short sprinters to roll down the conveyor belt at Frankfield’s athletics factory. She followed up a breezy 100-metre effort at JC (11.99 seconds) with a staggering 24.30 second 200-metre blitz at the Puma Development Meet. That’s just a smidge outside the existing Class IV record of 24.21 seconds that Reid set last year.
Junelle Bromfield (St. Elizabeth Technical High School)
A hand-timed 2:11.9 800-metre effort in early January clearly indicated that last year’s World Youth 400-metre hurdles finalist was probably as strong as she’s ever been. These suspicions were confirmed when she easily wrapped up a delectable 400m-800m double at Digicel/COCAA Western Championships on February 6. The personal best 2:07.37 performance in the latter and the 52.43 PR in the former suggests that she’ll be incredibly hard to top over her third specialist discipline – on the local and regional junior level, at least. And, as blasphemous as it may sound to say, I honestly think that improved hurdling efficiency could eventually put her in the class of the superlative Sydney McLaughlin.
The last female high school athlete to demonstrate this level of dynamism across these three disciplines was probably Edwin Allen’s Ristananna Tracey. Her 2011 Champs treble was highlighted by a stunning 55.81 second romp in the Open 400mH. It isn’t too far-fetched to think that Bromfield could better that mark before her high school days are done.
Janell Fullerton (St. Jago High School)
Throws specialist Fullerton finished third behind St. Andrew Technical’s Ayesha Champagnie in last year’s Champs Class I shot put final. With a best of 13.50 metres, she finished 77 centimetres down on Champagnie’s record effort. Very early into the 2016 season, Fullerton has already thrown farther than the less than year old standard. Her seasonal best mark of 14.64 metres at the Charlie Fuller Memorial meet suggests that puts in excess of 15 metres could be possible later this year. Her discus throwing hasn’t been shabby, either. She went out to 47.54 metres at JC.
Dejour Russell (Calabar High School)
The prodigiously talented Russell was having a relatively low-key start to the season until the Queens/Grace Jackson Invitational rolled around. However, within the space of 13.38 seconds, he sounded a loud warning to all his rivals by smashing his own meet record by over three-tenths of a second. It was a time faster than his former schoolmate Michael O’Hara’s existing Class II 110-metre hurdles standard of 13.45 seconds. As he continues to refine his hurdling technique, his beastly flat sprint speed should allow him to go to places that very few other athletes have gone in this event.
Christopher Taylor (Calabar High School)
The reigning World Youth one-lap champion opened his 2016 400-metre campaign with a facile victory in 46.99 seconds at the inaugural McKenley/Wint Classic. Despite being well over a second and a half off his current personal best, his performance still comfortably strode to the top of the yearly high school performance list. (It should be noted that KC’s sub-45 man Akeem Bloomfield is yet to make his bow.) Expect to see his times gradually taper as July’s IAAF World U20 Championships in Athletics draws closer. An eventual sub-45 second effort mightn’t be outside the realms of possibility.
Jauavney James (St. Elizabeth Technical High School)
The meteoric rise of World Youth 800m finalist Leon Clarke shunted James down the local Under-18 two-lap totem pole last season. With the long-legged Clarke gently easing into his first season in Class I, James has grasped the opportunity to recapture the headlines. His first sub-1:53 performance (1.52.88) and victory over reigning Champs Class I kingpin Paul Tate could be a harbinger of things to come. With at least these three in the mix, we could finally see the Class I half-mile times pace their way back to respectability.
The World Youth 400mH finalist has also gotten off to a solid start in the one-lap obstacle event. His Western Champs exploits included an encouraging 52.68 second effort over the more demanding 36-inch barriers. As his technique continues to improve, his times should drop precipitously.
Nigel Ellis (St. Elizabeth Technical High School)
Ellis has been laying waste to everything in his path so far this season. The STETHS schoolboy took some notable senior scalps while impressively winning the half-lap event at the Cental Hurdles & Relays meet (21.10 seconds). At Western Champs, aided by an almost perfect 1.9 metre per second tailwind, he covered the distance in a spanking new lifetime best of 20.40 seconds. This was after earlier slamming the CI field to cop the 100-metre crown in 10.20 seconds. If his form holds, many of the more notable names might be left floundering in his withering wake at Champs.
Warren Barrett (Calabar High School)
Barrett (Jnr) has started 2016 with a bang (by Jamaican junior shot-putting standards). With at least two competitions over 19 metres on the young season, the former Cornwall College standout appears the most qualified candidate to fill the vacancy left following Demar Gayle’s matriculation to the senior ranks. The 19.40-metre effort he registered at the Purewater/JC meet is just down on Gayle’s Class I Champs record of 19.52 metres. (While none of this is exactly Bukowiecki-esque, it’s an encouraging sign of a growing tradition.) Master conditioner Julian Robinson will undoubtedly have designs on getting yet another charge into a global junior field event final.
Amaudo O’Conner (Buff Bay High School)
O’Conner registered the second fastest time by a Class I boy in the 400 metres at the Central Hurdles & Relays meet. His time of 48.59 metres was only bettered by St. Jago’s Collin Sewell, who has been just about the most consistent Class I one-lapper on the young season. Highly touted ‘quarter horses’ Terry Thomas and Marco Doodnaughtsingh were among those who ran slower times than the man from St. Thomas on the day. It should be noted that O’Conner specializes in the decathlon.
As with many Jamaican decathletes before him, he has obvious deficiencies in quite a few of the 10-eventer’s more technical disciplines. (He only cleared 2.80 metres in the pole vault and seemingly laboured to a 15.83 second clocking in the 110mH.) However, these are among the events where access to more specialized coaching and better equipment/facilities can have the most profound impact. The raw speed, despite the virtual absence of any knee lift, is definitely there. He also has the frame to grow into some bigger throws.