Jason Richardson of USA wins his 400m Hurdles heat at the 2003 World Youth Championships (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Fast sprinting in Mexico's highest city as USA dominate NACAC Under-23 Champs

The United States was the clear winner of the 5th NACAC Under-23 Athletics Championships as Mexico's highest city, 2,680m above sea level, witnessed fast sprinting results and the last rehearsal for some Beijing-bound athletes.

With the largest squad (78 athletes) of the 20 participating nations, the USA collected 62 medals (28 gold, 26 silver and 8 bronze), well ahead of hosts Mexico (6-4-9), Canada (5-2-7) and Jamaica (5-3-3), the only other countries to win gold medals over the weekend. Cuba was absent.

Aided by the notable altitude of the Alberto "Chivo" Córdova Stadium of the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico (UAEM) in Toluca, 65km west of Mexico City, the 2008 NACAC edition saw 16 Championships records fall and one equalled as some athletes achieved a last minute qualification for the Olympic Games.

Samuels and Wells take 100 & 200 for the US

The show was focused on the sprint events. USA's James J-Mee Samuels took the 100m title in 10.09, close to his personal best of 10.08, to erase the 10.15 second standard, set by Bahamas' 2007 World silver medallist Derrick Atkins (10.15) in Santo Domingo 2006.

He anchored his squad to an impressive display in the 4x100m relay with a 38.39 record, followed by Canada (39.31) and the Cayman Islands in a new national best of 39.68.

Second in the 100m (10.15), Evander Wells blazed to a fast 200m victory in 20.34, nearly three tenths of a second better that the previous Championships best.

Honduras' Rolando Palacios was the main beneficiary of the high altitude in Toluca as he improved his Central American records by a huge margin to book a last-minute ticket in both sprint events.

In the 100m, he first ran 10.35 in the semi-finals and clocked 10.22 for third in the final. On Sunday, he chopped his 200m national record by almost half a second (20.95 to 20.40) to finish second and claim his first medals outside the Central American region.

Third at the 2008 NCAA Championships, LaJerald Betters, 20, also set a new personal best in the 400m with 44.75, one of the eight men's records set here.

Another twenty-year old, Tabarie Joil Henry improved his US Virgin Islands record with 45.37 for silver after breaking the 11-year national mark of 45.42 set in April.

Calvert takes short dash gold for Jamaica

In the women's sprints, 2005 World Youth championships and 2006 World Junior bronze medallist Schillonie Calvert of Jamaica set a new standard in the 100m with 11.24, but the 19-year old could not complete the sprint double as Leslie Cole of the USA dominated the 200m in 22.92.

Calvert was second in 23.33 and Mariely Sanchez improved the Dominican Republic's 24-year old record by almost half a second (23.91 to 23.50).

Jamaica's Bobbi-Gaye Wilkins (51.34) and Nickiesha Wilson won the 400m flat and hurdles, respectively, and joined forces to lead the Reggae girls in a new championships record 3:27.46, ahead of the USA (3:28.25) in the 4x400m relay.

Wilson, fourth place at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka and runner-up at the 2007 Pan American Games, set a new NACAC standard over the barriers with 55.78.

Sanchez pleases home crowd

Mexico's top bet for an Olympic medal, Eder Sánchez pleased the home crowd with a comfortable victory in the 20,000m race walk in a new Championships record of 1:30:46.78, nearly a minute ahead of Beijing-bound David Mejía in their last rehearsal before the Summer Games.

"I just focused on walking around 1:30 hours as a final rehearsal before the Olympics", commented State of Mexico-born Sanchez, who completed his fifth 20km walk, including a bronze medal performance at the World Cup in Mexico.

The USA dominated the sprint hurdles with two new records. Jason Richardson, the 2003 110m and 400m hurdles world youth champion, clocked 13.32 and Tiffany Ofili ran 12.82 for the 100m hurdles gold.

Other double winners were Sara Stevens (Shot Put and Discus) and Canada's Jillian Drouin (High Jump and Heptathlon).

Other notable performances came in the women's Long Jump and the men's Javelin as Joemi Maduka landed at 6.66 and Chris Hill, who has improved his personal best by nearly nine meters in 2008 but narrowly missed a spot in the Olympic team, threw the 800g implement to 80.51.The USA women took the 4x100m relay in 43.64.

The NACAC Championships returned to Mexico, the country where the first edition was held, in Monterrey 2000, then open for athletes aged up to 25 years.

Fourteen nations won at least one medal in the biennial event. The sixth edition will be held in 2010.

Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF

List of 2008 NACAC Under-23 champions:
100m Schillonie Calvert JAM 11.24 (0.03) CR
200m Leslie Cole USA 22.92 (-1.2)
400m Bobbi-Gaye Wilkins JAM 51.34
800m  Geena Gall USA 2:10.32
1500m Nicole Edwards CAN 4:36.27
5,000m Gwen Jorgensen USA 18:04.56
10,000m Meghan Armstrong USA 37:31.28 CR
3000m ST Nicole Bush USA 10:42.17
100m H Tiffany Offili USA 12.82 (-0.6) CR
400m H Nickiesha Wilson JAM 55.78 CR
HJ Jillian Drouin CAN 1.85
PV Katie Stripling USA 4.35 CR
LJ Joemi Maduka USA 6.66n CR
TJ Crystal Manning USA 13.52
SP Sara Stevens USA 16.04
DT D'Andra Carter USA 52.92
HT Sara Stevens USA  62.79
JT Elizabeth Gleadle CAN 51.76
10km Walk Maria de la Luz Pérez MEX 49:50.63 CR
Heptathlon Jillian Drouin CAN 5714
(13.80, 1.87, 12.38, 25.08/6.07, 37.19, 2:38.40)
4x100m USA 43.64
Jessica Onyepunuka, Tawanna Meadows, Lynne Layne, Scottesha Miller
4x400m Jamaica 3:27.46 CR
Christine Day, Bobbi-Gaye Wilkins, Anastasia Leroy, Nickiesha Wilson
100m James J-Mee Samuels USA 10.09 (0.3) CR
200m Evander Wells 20.34 (-0.9) CR
400m LaJerald Betters USA 44.75 CR
800m Rob Novak USA 1:50.22
1500m Josue Ramírez MEX 3:51.52
5,000m Jose Mireles MEX 15:10.96
10,000m Ismael Mondragón MEX 32:10.86
3000m Josafat Gonzalez MEX 9:15.04
110m H Jason Richardson 13.32 (-1.0) CR
400m H Justin Gayman USA 49.50
HJ Joe Kindred USA 2.27 ECR
PV Jordan Scott USA 5.50
LJ Matt Turner USA 7.96
TJ Andre Black USA 15.91
SP Ryan Whiting USA 19.46
DT Matt Lamb USA 58.70
HT Sean Steacy CAN 65.30
JT Chris Hill USA 80.51 CR
Decathlon Raven Cepeda USA 7504 CR
(11.00, 6.96, 13.70, 1.94, 50.67/14.57, 39.75, 5.00, 49.33, 5:02.34)
4x100m USA 38.39 CR
Jeremy Hall, Teddy Williams, Chistopher Dykes, James J-Mee Samuels,
4x400m Jamaica 3:05.61
Riker Hylton, Theo Bennett, Michael Mason, Tarik Edwards
20km Walk Eder Sanchez 1:30:46.78 CR
CR- Championships record
ECR- Equalled Championships record
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