Zharnel Hughes beats Jevaughn Minzie at the 2014 Boys and Girls Championships (© Jean-Pierre Durand)
Jamaica, and some of its Caribbean neighbours as well, showed off its latest generation of athletics talent at the Boys and Girls Championships, the annual competition among Jamaica’s high school teams, which ended after five days of competition on Saturday (30).
As is usually the case, the sprints took pride of place and the races on Friday evening established two names that should have a glittering future, especially at the IAAF World Junior Championships this summer and next year’s IAAF World Youth Championships.
Firstly, 15-year-old Raheem Chambers won his 14-15 age group 100m final in 10.29 (+0.2 metres-per-second). Just a few minutes later, Anguilla’s Zharnel Hughes, last year’s Carifta Games champion and a student at the local Kingston College gained the victory in the final for the oldest age category of the Championships (Class 1 - 16-19 age group), clocking a hugely impressive 10.12 (+1.3mps), despite a poor start.
Both marks were meeting records and deprived Yohan Blake of both accolades, the 2011 IAAF World Championships 100m gold medallist having run 10.34 in the younger age group and then 10.21 later in his high school career.
Hughes, 18, is training at the IAAF High Performance Training Center in Kingston, often doing his workouts alongside Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake.
Moreover, Blake encouraged him to try and break his meet record. The fastest Jamaican in the race, 18-year-old Jevaughn Minzie, also broke Blake’s record when finishing second in 10.16.
Hughes had to withdraw from Saturday’s 200m final due to a slight hamstring strain. In his absence, Minzie gained the victory, clocking 20.50 (-0.2 mps), 2013 World Youth 400m champion Martin Manley, who has just turned 17, was second with 20.73; both men clocking personal bests.
Usain Bolt’s meeting record in the 200m, 20.25 from 2003, was safe, but his 400m record of 45.43 was broken on Friday evening by the most titled participant of the Championships, Moscow 2013 4x400m relay medallist Javon Francis, who destroyed the field, clocking a very impressive time of 45.00. (Note: Francis, although still 19 and a high school student, has a 1994 birthday and so is not a junior.)
Hurdles double for Hyde
Another highlight of the Friday evening was the win in the 400m hurdles for 2013 World Youth Championships 110m hurdles gold medallist Jaheel Hyde, who dipped under 50 seconds for the first time in his career, setting a meeting record of 49.49.
Hyde, who just turned 17 last month, returned to the track on Saturday and won his second gold medal, this time in the 110m hurdles, clocking 13.53 into a stiff -3.5 mps breeze.
In the girls’ 400m hurdles final, Peta-Gay Williams was in a confident lead, but caught the foot of her lead leg on a hurdle on the home straight and fell, leaving the victory to Genekee Leith, who set a personal best of 58.20.
On Saturday, Williams, now wearing a cast on her right arm after suffering a fracture, bounced back from the painful loss, by winning the 100m hurdles final in 13.81 (-2.5mps), with reigning World Youth champion Yanique Thompson second in 13.95.
The girls’ Class 1 100m final was won by Jamaica’s 2011 World Youth Championships bronze medallist Christania Williams, who was sidelined with a hamstring injury last year. She improved her personal best by 0.2 when registering 11.19 (-0.6). However, like Javon Francis, Williams turns 20 later this year and is not a junior.
Jonielle Smith, just 18, won the 200m in this age group for the second straight year; in the final she registered 23.45 into a strong headwind (-2.7mps).
In the girls’ 400m final, two runners broke 53 seconds. Yanique McNeil won in 52.88 with Dawanlee Loney a close second, stopping the clock at 52.91.
In the field events, 2013 World Youth Championships high jump bronze medallist Christoff Bryan, 17, won the Class 1 (16-19) competition with a personal best and meeting record of 2.23m. He went on to try jumping 2.26m, and was very close to success on his second attempt.
Tamra Moncrieffe was the only finalist in the girls’ triple jump to leap over 13 metres but dominated the competition with a personal best of 13.51m (+0.9), just one centimetre shy of the meeting record. Claudette Allen won the long jump with 6.45m (+0.8).
Both girls’ and boys’ 4x100m relay finals in the oldest age category ended up with meeting records. In the boys’ race Calabar High School clocked 39.35, in the girls’ Edwin Allen High School ran 44.17.
Next stop for majority of the medallists is the Carifta Games, held on 19-21 April in Martinique. The composition of Jamaica’s team for the IAAF World Junior Championships in Eugene, USA, will be announced after the National Junior Championships, starting on 13 June.
Elena Dyachkova for the IAAF