Levern Spencer cemented herself as Saint Lucia’s most decorated athlete ever as she claimed a third consecutive high jump gold at the NACAC (North American, Central American and Caribbean) Championships, which opened on Friday (10) at University of Toronto’s Varsity Stadium with eight records set.
One week after completing another winning hat-trick, at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Colombia, the 34-year old kept the small Caribbean nation on the athletics map once again as she equalled her championships record with a 1.91m clearance on her second attempt.
“I am excited to win the title again,” she said. “It’s always my goal. I am really in good shape. I was hoping to jump higher. I was excepting to do a lot better than I did. My first attempt at 1.94m was really close, but I am thankful I was able to come out with the win so I am pleased with that. I now have a wild card for the Pan American Games and the (2019) World Championships.”
Next stop for the Commonwealth champion will be the IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich. She also hopes to make her third Americas team for the IAAF Continental Cup Ostrava 2018 on 8-9 September.
The sole athlete to compete in the three editions of the NACAC Championships has built a successful career since her bronze medal at the IAAF World Youth Championships and gold at the Central American and Caribbean Championships in 2001. Her pedigree includes seven World Championships, three Olympic Games, four Pan American Games and five Commonwealth Games. She won the Pan Am crown in 2015 on latest trip to Canada.
Spencer capped a record-filled evening at Varsity Stadium. North American record-holder and world No.2 Deanna Price improved the previous Canadian all-comers’ record in her three valid throws to take the hammer title with 74.60m, the first record of the competition.
Her compatriot Darrell Hill followed with a massive 21.68m, close to his season’s best, to win the shot put. Second three years ago in San Jose, Costa Rica, the 24-year old led four other men beyond the previous championships mark, including British Virgin Islands’ Eldred Henry, who improved his national record to 20.63m for fifth.
Cuba’s Yaime Perez, the third ranked athlete in the world, dominated the discus and was the only woman to go beyond 60 metres, setting a championships record of 61.97m in the fifth round.
World U20 and U18 champion Jordan Diaz gave Cuba its second gold of the day with a best of 16.83m in the third round of the triple jump. He prevailed over more experienced athletes, including USA’s world finalist Chris Bernard, who settle for silver in 16.73m.
Three US athletes set records in the distance events: Mel Lawrence (9:45.36) in the 3000m steeplechase, Rachel Schneider (15:26.19) in the 5000m and Lopez Lomong (29:49.03) in the 10,000m, the first time the longer distance had been contested at these championships.
The first victories of the championships went to Canada’s Evan Dunfee (1:25:39) and USA’s Maria Michta-Coffey (1:36:34) in the 20km race walk.
The championship record fell twice in the women’s 100m hurdles semifinals, setting up an exciting battle in the final.
Jamaica’s 2015 world champion Danielle Williams set the tone with a championship record of 12.72 in the first heat. The record would be short-lived as USA’s world record-holder and world indoor champion Kendra Harrison lowered it to 12.66 in the second semifinal.
Her compatriot and Pan American champion Queen Harrison, Costa Rica’s CAC Games champion Andrea Vargas (12.94) and Bahamas’ world indoor finalist Devynne Charlton should also be in the mix for the medals in Saturday’s final.
The 200m semifinals were led by Canadian champions Aaron Brown and Crystal Emmanuel. Brown won the third heat in 20.58, while Emmanuel produced her second fastest time ever on home soil (22.82) to win over Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson and USA’s world 400m champion Phyllis Francis.
The third fastest man in the world this year, Kyron McMaster of the British Virgin Islands, led the 400m hurdles semifinals with 49.16, while Jamaica’s Olympic finalist Leah Nugent did in the same event for women with 54.85. Another Olympic finalist, USA’s Devon Allen, was the fastest in the 110m hurdles semifinals with 13.37.
Fifteen finals will be held Saturday on the second day, including the 100m, 400m, 800m and the sprint hurdles for men and women, as well as the women’s pole vault featuring world and Olympic medallists Sandi Morris of the USA and Yarisley Silva of Cuba.
The women’s 100m features Jamaica’s two-time Olympic winner Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, one of the 38 former and current world and Olympic medallists entered for this weekend’s championships.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF