By Noel ‘Bravo’ Francis, Special to

After several pre-qualifying meets including Western Champs, Central Champs, Eastern Champs and the Corporate Area Athletic Games, the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys & Girls Track & Field Championships (Champs) represents the ultimate athletics event, which decides all-island supremacy amongst Jamaican High Schools. Inevitably there will be setbacks and upsets along the way which usually makes ‘Champs’ an intriguing affair.

Many knowledgeable track & field fans are expressing with certainty that all three classes are going to be very competitive this year. Some top schools will have a selection dilemma as they sometimes have three or four quality athletes to choose from for an individual event, which augurs well for their relay squads. Without the benefit of seeing the respective entry lists, this is my compilation of some of most eagerly awaited clashes the viewing public can expect with a few predictions. 

Jamaica is now witnessing a refreshing renaissance in male quarter-mile running which have many track fans harbouring thoughts of the country winning the 4×400-metre gold medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The nucleus of that team is likely to come from this current crop of youngsters participating at ‘Champs’ 2014. Let us now focus on some of these future stars.

400M Class 3

Christopher Taylor of Calabar displayed his precocious talent last year when as the youngest competitor in the 400m final he won the silver medal. This year he is a more seasoned competitor and is the clear favourite for the title. He has been consistent all season registering times in the 50 seconds region over the distance.

However, on March 1, 2014 at the Urban Development Meet at the National Stadium, the slimly built Taylor ran the first sub 49 seconds by a Class 3 athlete. His time of 48.54 seconds sets him a country mile apart from his opponents and the only question that remains is how fast he will run at ‘Champs’. Taylor’s teammate Brandon Heath is also a strong medal candidate, and both young men could possibly gain Calabar a 1-2 podium finish.

St. Jago High’s Javad Black and Andy Williams along with Kevon Stone of Godfrey Stewart High should complete the pack chasing Christopher Taylor home. The season bests for this event are as follows:

1.      Christopher Taylor – Calabar         48.54
2.      Brandon Heath       –  Calabar        51.58
3.      Javad Black          –   St. Jago         51.61
4.      Tyreke Wilson       –  Calabar         52.10
5.      Kevon Stone  – Godfrey Stewart    52.45
6.      Andy Williams     –   St. Jago         53.16

400M Class 2

Will K.C. build a dynasty in this event? The purples have in their ranks Dontre Williams and Nathaniel Bann, two quality quarter milers who can dominate this event for the rest of their ‘Champs’ careers. However, ‘Champs’ is not easy like ABC and without a doubt Calabar will counter the purples quinella threat with Anthony Carpenter and Aykeeme Francis in a very important final for both schools. 

This race will certainly bring out the motto of both schools in the final 100-metres. Western Champs triple winner Leroy Francis of STETHS needs close monitoring as he could pose serious problems for both title chasers. Nathaniel Bann is on track to break the 47 seconds barrier and collect 9 points for the ‘famed purples’. We hope the injury his teammate Dontre Williams received at the CARIFTA trials will not threaten his participation at ‘Champs’.

400M Class 1

Some persons believe if all participants are in peak condition then Usain Bolt’s 400m record of 45.35seconds, which has stood since 2003 could be history. Last year this was the only 400-metre record among the boys that was not broken at ‘Champs’.

Calabar’s 19-year-old 4×400 metres World Championships silver medallist Javon ‘Donkey Man’ Francis has gone below 46 seconds on more than one occasion and is currently running like a man with four lungs. He is a tireless competitor and will be very hard to beat. After his achievement at the World Championships in Moscow, Francis competing at ‘Champs’ this year will feel like a man among boys. He has publicly expressed a burning desire to break Usain Bolt’s record in this event. His opponents will not intimidate him and his only weakness might be his overconfidence.

However, World Youth Champion Martin Manley of St. Jago High who won that title in 45.89 seconds is highly touted to do something special in this event. He has expressed confidence of winning this event, which would be worth the price of admission for the patrons at the finish line in the Grandstand.

Perennial runner-up Lennox Williams of Manchester High, who bears a slight resemblance to the late great Arthur Wint, ran 46.30 seconds last year and should fancy his chances. The record holder in Class 2, Devaughn Baker (46.64) of J.C. is now a senior and will definitely raise the stakes with his presence in this one.

St. Jago High might have a selection dilemma between the impressive Nathon Allen and last year’s bronze medal winner Ivan Henry to collaborate with Martin Manley; either competitor would add depth to the field.

Allen might get the nod after he raised eyebrows with his winning 46.11 seconds clocking at the CARIFTA trials in the boys’ Under-20 400-meter final. It was the second fastest time done this season behind Francis’ 45.95.

Both Javon Francis and Lennox Williams are in their final year at ‘Champs’ and would like to graduate with distinction, especially Javon who could join a select club with a hattrick of wins in Class 1 400-metres. I believe former Calabar standout Daniel England is probably the last man to achieve that feat in the past 25 years.

In the next feature, I will be looking at the boys’ 100-meter dash. Do not miss it.


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