Jamaican sprinter Christopher Taylor (© Collin Reid)
As expected, Jamaica once again underlined their dominance of Caribbean youth and junior track and field at the 46th staging of the FLOW CARIFTA Games on the Dutch island of Curacao, amassing 39 gold, 28 silver and 19 bronze medals at the end of the three-day competition held on 15-17 April.
The regional athletics competition for U18 and U20 athletes, attended by IAAF President Sebastian Coe, NACAC President Victor Lopez and fellow IAAF Council Members Stephanie Hightower and Pauline Davis-Thompson among other athletics dignitaries, produced several outstanding performances including a number of record-breaking feats.
Field event records fall on opening day
The Jamaicans, who stamped their authority from the early going, were responsible for two field records on the opening day. Roje Stona, competing in the U20 boys’ discus, launched his first attempt out to 66.41m erasing his countryman Chad Wright’s seven-year-old record of 63.11m.
Fiona Richards, not to be outdone in the girls’ event, threw 54.19m to smash the 15-year record (53.47m) set by Claudia Villeneuve of Martinique. Richards surpassed 54 metres with her first four attempts.
In the U18 girls’ high jump, Janique Burgher and Lamara Distin collected Jamaica’s first two medals on the opening morning, claiming gold and silver with clearances of 1.77m and 1.74m respectively.
Taylor’s 400m rise continues
In the afternoon, the Jamaicans led by team captains Christopher Taylor and Junelle Bromfield captured three out of four of the 400m finals.
Bromfield, the world U20 bronze medallist, looked in commanding form as she blitzed the field, winning by a wide margin in 53.51. The battle for second between Barbadian Tiana Bowen and Jamaica’s Kimorla Mushette was extremely close after both athletes registered 55.62; Bowen got the nod by .001.
Taylor, the world U18 champion, made light work of the opposition, registering his second sub-46 clocking this season as he cruised to victory in 45.97 in the U20 boys’ 400m. Caymanian Jamal Walton, whom many thought would challenge Taylor, was a distant second in 46.46. In the U18 boys’ 400m Jamaica’s Antonio Watson (47.86) and Ramone Lindo (47.99) copped the gold and silver respectively.
Megan Moss of The Bahamas halted the Jamaican winning streak in the quarter-mile events with a convincing victory over Kimara Francis (54.24) in the U18 girls’ 400m. Moss won in a personal best of 53.69. Prior to the 400m finals, the Jamaicans continued their gold rush winning all four 1500m finals.
Elsewhere, Trinidad & Tobago’s Tyriq Horsford continued his country’s rich legacy established at these games by 2012 Olympic champion Kershorn Walcott, when he set a record in the boys’ U18 javelin, throwing 76.50m. Latia Saunders of The Bahamas won the U18 girls’ javelin with 45.29m.
Glenn Kunst of Curacao, who won the Austin Sealy award, sent the home crowd into raptures when he soared to 4.65m in the pole vault to erase the meeting record (4.60m) set by Jamaica’s K’Don Samuels in 2008. He was involved in a keen tussle with Baptiste Thiery of Martinique who led, based on count back, up to 4.50m.
Jermaine Francis of St Kitts and Nevis etched his name in the record books when he raised the high jump bar to 2.22m and cleared it to supplant joint record-holders Damon Thompson (Barbados) and Jamal Wilson (Bahamas) who cleared 2.20m in 2001 and 2007 respectively.
Daniel Cope became the first U18 athlete to launch the shot put beyond 18 metres. The Jamaican did it with his final effort (18.17m) improving by 42 centimetres the record set last year by his countryman Zico Campbell. Cope returned on the final day to set another record (61.25m) in the U18 discus.
Lacee Barnes won the Cayman Islands’ first gold medal when she threw 13.06m with her last effort in the U20 girls’ shot put to upstage early leader Sah-Jay Stevens (13.02m) of Jamaica.
Octathlon decided by one point
One point separated gold and silver in the highly competitive and nail-biting boys’ octathlon with Barbadian Aaron Worrell amassing 5461 to Wikenson Fenelon of Turks and Caicos with 5460.
Despite failing to register a mark in the javelin, Tyra Gittens of Trinidad & Tobago comfortably won the girls' heptathlon with 4854, more than 300 ahead of her closest challenger Thelia Ruster (4540) of French Guiana.
The Bahamas scored a pair of victories in the U18 boys’ horizontal and vertical jumps. First Denvaughn Whymns leapt 7.31m to successfully defend his U18 boys’ long jump title then Shaun Miller reigned supreme in the high jump when he cleared 2.06m. Guyana’s Natricia Hooper bounded out to 13.08m for gold in the U20 girls’ triple jump.
Sprint double for St Fort
The 100m sprints, which were run into a breeze, saw Trinidad and Tobago winning two out of the four finals. In the U20 girls’ 100m, world U20 bronze medallist Khalifa St Fort had to battle a 1-.9m/s headwind and a spirited challenge from Jamaica’s senior high school champion Aneka Brissett right down to the wire. St Fort stopped the clock at 11.56 to finish .01 ahead of Brissett.
St Fort later completed the U20 sprint double when she won the 200m in 23.99 (0.5m/s). Talented Jamaican sprinter Michael Stephens obliged in the U18 boys’ 200m with a comfortable victory in 21.30 (0.9m/s).
Just before St Fort’s 100m golden run, her compatriot Adell Colthurst celebrated a fine victory in the U18 boys’ 100m. Colthurst, who took bronze last year, was involved in a photo finish edging Adrian Curry 10.64 (-2.9m/s) of The Bahamas by one hundredth of a second.
By far the most amazing victory came in the girls’ U18 100m. Overcoming a sluggish start which left her languishing in seventh early on, Jamaica’s fastest school girl Kevona Davis switched into overdrive and powered past her opponents for a notable victory in 11.62 (-1.6m/s). Davis’ Florida-based teammate Briana Williams (11.80) had the perfect start, exploding out of the blocks and led for 70 metres before being caught by the fast-finishing duo of Davis and runner-up Joella Lloyd (11.67) of Antigua and Barbuda.
Two false starts almost ruined the tension-filled boys’ U20 100m. More drama came during the race as Guyana’s Compton Caesar scored a massive upset holding off pre-race favourite Jaquone Hoyte of Barbados on the line. Both athletes were credited with 10.46 (-1.1m/s).
Jamaica failed to match last year’s 4x100m relay sweep and had to settle with three victories after their U18 girls, who crossed the line first, were disqualified for a lane infringement. That disappointment didn’t dampen the celebratory mood of their ecstatic U18 boys’ quartet who created history by setting a world U18 best of 39.97.
World U18 leader Britany Anderson of Jamaica showed her pedigree when she broke the U18 girls’ 100m hurdles meeting record, running 13.16 into a -2.1m/s headwind. Her compatriot Amoi Brown ran 13.44 (0.4m/s) to win the U20 100m hurdles, just 0.02 outside the record. World U20 finalist Dejour Russell, who false started last year, gained redemption when he won the boys’ U18 110m title in a wind-aided 13.19 (2.4m/s).
The games came to a dramatic climax in the U20 boys’ 4x400m. At the first exchange Jamaica surrendered the advantage to Trinidad and Tobago after a baton foul up. The twin island republic opened up a sizeable lead which reached 25 metres on the final leg when Jamaica’s world U18 champion Christopher Taylor received the baton. He admirably went about the herculean task with a gutsy display and came up on the shoulder of Trinidad and Tobago’s Kashief King with 50 metres to go but eventually ran out of steam. Trinidad and Tobago won in 3:09.32 ahead of Jamaica in 3:10.34.
Noel Francis for the IAAF