It’s been a while since Jamaica’s junior males last won gold in any flat event or relay at a global U20 championship. This gold-less streak seems destined to come to an end in Tampere. The Sporting Dimension assesses the prospects of those most likely (and not so likely) to do the deed.
If things play to script, the Michaels – national junior champ Bentley (10.30 SB/PB) and runner-up Stephens (10.32 SB/PB) – will defend Jamaica’s honour in the blue riband event. Both are in pro-style programmes that should get them primed for a seasonal peak in Tampere. This could see both dipping down into the 10.2xs — and, possibly, into the final. (This is a time zone in which at least one medal has historically been available.)
American sensation Anthony Schwartz (10.09 SB/PB) is the U20 world leader. He, however, is just a couple ticks ahead of South Africa’s Thando Dlodlo (10.11 SB/PB). The compact Enoch Adegoke, who finished seventh in the Commonwealth Games final back in April, is another dangerous-looking competitor.
World U20 leader Christopher Taylor’s decision to focus on the one-lap event leaves the task of adding to Nigel Ellis’s 2016 bronze to Bentley (20.91 SB/PB) and Xavier Nairne (21.06 SB/PB). Neither is a lock to make the final. However, Bentley’s runs at junior trials suggest that he could be on for a breakout performance in Finland. Meanwhile, a PB will likely be required for Nairne to make the last eight. American Eric Harrison (20.39 SB/PB) is the fastest entrant.
Chris Taylor (44.88 SB/PB) is the prohibitive gold medal favourite in this event. The 2015 world youth champion has been in fine form this season, dropping big personal bests across all three sprint distances. The recently crowned national senior champ will be partnered in the event by national junior title winner Chantz Sawyer’s (45.40 SB/PB). This, unfortunately, is likely to leave Dashawn Morris (45.09 SB/PB) on the outside looking in. American Howard Fields is the next fastest in the field (45.50 SB/PB).
In my humble opinion, Kimar Farquharson is the best junior two-lap talent that Jamaica has produced in decades. His current 1:49.66 personal best leaves him well off what one projects will be the final-making pace. However, he’s always struck me as an athlete capable of acquitting himself well in much classier company once he trusts his conditioning and fully commits to his natural front-running style. I’m hopeful of a PB or two. Ethiopia’s Tadese Lemi (1:46.00) is the fastest entrant.
Last year, Calabar’s crack Class I quartet of Tyreke Wilson, Chris Taylor, Michael Stephens, and De’Jour Russell produced a sizzling 39.00 performance at the Penn Relays. All are still juniors. Alas, for a variety of reasons, only Stephens is nailed on to feature in the 4×1 in Tampere. Nonetheless, a foursome of Nairne, Stephens, Jhevaughn Matherson, and Bentley should, with efficient passing, still be able to bring home a medal. The Americans, South Africans, and the slick-sticked Japanese will prove formidable foes, though.
In later years, we may well look back and identify this race as the one that triggered a generation of epic 1,600-metre relay battles between Jamaica and America. Based on open times alone, this is the best aggregation of junior 400m talent that our fair isle has ever assembled. A final quartet of Anthony Carpenter (45.47 SB/PB), Morris, Sawyers, and Taylor will be very hard to beat. The less than year-old national junior record (3:03.77) is surely living on borrowed time. If conditions cooperate, even the United States’ imposing world U20 standard (3:00.33) could come under threat. We definitely shouldn’t expect our juggernaut of a northern neighbour to take all of this lying down, though.
* Image courtesy of the IAAF