The sprints will once again headline the show at the upcoming Jamaican Olympic trials (June 30 – July 3). The likes of multiple Olympic champions Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Veronica Campbell-Brown are just a few of the superlative speedsters who’ll be looking to punch their tickets to Rio. I, too, will definitely be keeping a close eye on the sprints. However, I’ll also be watching other goings-on on the track and in the field very closely. Here’s a look at six events that could steal just a bit of the shine from the sprints this weekend.
Women’s 400-metre Hurdles
Janieve Russell’s emergence as this season’s undisputed Jamaican No.1 has been nothing short of spectacular. An early season personal best over 400 metres suggested that big things were in the offing for the former world junior 400mH champion. Sure enough, this was the precursor to her maiden voyage below the 54-second barrier (53.96 seconds) at the Rome Diamond League meeting in early June. There’s clearly a lot more left in the tank.
The 56.20 qualifying standard has proven a minor obstacle to hurdle for quite a few other Jamaican women. The most prominent name among these is former MVP ace and former Olympic fourth-placer Kaliese Spencer. Ristananna Tracey, who was recently relegated to No.3 on the all-time Under-20 performance list by the outstanding Sydney McLaughlin, is also in this pack. G.C. Foster’s Rhonda Whyte, who seems to have had some injury issues following her big personal best clocking of 55.58 seconds, and Yanique Haye-Smith (56.17 seconds) are also Rio-eligible.
Meanwhile, Tracey’s sister Nikita (56.21 seconds), junior leader Shannon Kalawan (56.29 seconds), Danielle Dowie (56.50 seconds), and Rushell Clayton (56.86 seconds) are all within striking distance of the standard.
Women’s Discus Throw
Amazingly, three Jamaican women have already achieved the Olympic qualifying standard of 61 metres heading into trials. Florida State’s 2016 NCAA runner-up Kellion Knibb tops the list with her 61.44m national record performance. She’s followed closely by Tarasue Barnett (61.28m). Former Edwin Allen High and G.C. Foster College standout Barnett, in turn, is mere centimetres ahead of Shadae Lawrence (61.18m).
Former national record holder Allison Randall’s 2016 best (60.94m) lies just six centimetres below the required mark. She’s among a handful of 55-plus metre performers who’re currently on the outside looking in. However, all surely will be keen to kill two birds with one stone (or discus, if you prefer) by surpassing the standard and booking a ticket to Brazil in one fell swoop.
I’ll be keeping a particularly close eye on national junior record holder (54.72m) Shanice Love, who appears poised to make some noise at the upcoming IAAF World U20 Championships.
Men’s 110-metre Hurdles
Quite a few of Jamaica’s male sprint hurdlers have already sped past the qualifying standard of 13.47 seconds. Leading this lot is the world-rated duo of global leader Omar McLeod (12.98 seconds) and Hansle Parchment (13.10 seconds). The extremely talented former Calabar High man Deuce Carter (13.20 seconds), who has finally been able to piece together an injury-free season (Knock on wood!), looks the clear-cut No.3 heading into the weekend.
However, there is a cluster of men who’ve run in the 13.4x range who’ll be looking to upset the applecart. This bunch includes former national champion Andrew Riley (13.48 seconds), 2014 world junior silver medalist Tyler Mason (13.46 seconds), Ronald Levy (13.50 seconds), and Yannick Hart (13.58 seconds). Riley will likely need to get back to his absolute best to sneak into the first three. Meanwhile, Mason and Levy would have to go deep into hitherto uncharted territory to join the trio to Rio.
Men’s 400-metre Hurdles
Jamaica’s rich tradition in the one-lap obstacle event hasn’t been burnished much over the last five years or so – at least, not at the senior level. Cue the entry of reigning world junior champion Jaheel Hyde. Hyde is just one of a handful of men who’re walking around with the standard safely stashed in their back pockets.
While Hyde may represent the discipline’s future, he isn’t the current national leader. That distinction belongs to the veteran Roxroy Cato (48.98 seconds), who has probably been the most consistent of the lot over the last couple years. This consistency is likely to again serve him well in this championship setting.
Reigning national champ Annsert Whyte (49.25 seconds), Leford Green (49.90 seconds), and old-stager Isa Phillips (49.85 seconds) will also be looking to make their presence felt. As will younger campaigners like Andre Clarke (49.64 seconds) and former world youth champ Marvin Williams (50.14 seconds). However, the most dangerous dark horse in the field could well prove to be halfmiler-turned-hurdler Ricardo Cunningham (49.66 seconds).
The 35 year-old Cunningham has been scripting a Danny McFarlane-like late career transition feel-good story this season. If he’s sufficiently refined his technique since last he ran, his phenomenal finishing strength may just allow him to spring one of the weekend’s biggest surprises.
Men’s Triple Jump
No male triple jumper has achieved the standard of 16.85 metres heading into trials. (Two of their female compatriots have already done so.) Such a fact would suggest that things are pretty bleak. Au contraire, the future of Jamaican male triple jumping looks as bright as it’s probably ever been.
NCAA indoor champion Clive Pullen’s 16.78m personal best, recorded earlier this year, leaves him just seven centimetres shy of the coveted mark. If he reports in tip-top condition, he stands every chance of grabbing both a ticket to Rio and his first national senior title.
Against the backdrop of Jamaica’s history in the event, this Rio Olympics trials field could just be the strongest ever assembled. Damon McLean (16.42m), Jonathan Reid (16.33m), and Javier Lowe (16.10m) all feature on the IAAF’s 2016 top performances list in the discipline. Additionally, recently crowned national junior champ Jordon Scott bounded out to a massive – if significantly wind-aided – 16.60-metre effort at the recently staged junior national championships.
Men’s Discus Throw
Two Jamaican men – Fedrick Dacres and Jason Morgan – have already attained the demanding 65-metre qualifying standard with the two-kilogramme disc. 2015 World Championships finalist Dacres looks a lead-pipe lock to confirm his attendance in Rio with a top-three finish. After that, however, things are distinctly less clear.
National record holder Morgan has a 2016 best of 63.11 metres. This places him fourth on the year’s Jamaican performance list. It’s quite possible that the two men immediately above him – Chad Wright (64.45m) and Traves Smikle (63.42m) – could pull a coup. If they all ride the wave of adrenaline, the hope is that fans inside the National Stadium will see at least three of these mighty men wing the implement over 65 metres.
Will the intense competition inspire young Kino Dunkley (58.23m) and Basil Bingham (58.12m) to also breach the 60-metre mark? All will be revealed on the night of Saturday, July 2.