By Noel 'Bravo' Francis, Special toTrackAlerts.com
In my opinion, it is only a matter of time before Jamaica revives the glory days at middle distance running. The performances last year were so encouraging that some track fans who would rather watch the shorter sprints became middle distance converts instantly after witnessing two dramatic 800m finals.
The excitement did not stop in fact it got contagious and spread to the Class 1 and 2 finals. This year promises some absorbing action based on the available talent.
800-Metre Class 2
Despite the fact that no records were broken in this event last year, I rank both the 800m finals in Classes 1 and 2 as two of the best races of the 2013 Boys & Girls championships. Many persons who thought distance running events were boring were in awe for the duration of these races especially the final 50 metres. The times and blanket finish says it all here:
1. Dirk Williams – Jamaica College 1:58.64
2. Rayon Butler – Holmwood Technical 1:58.72
3. Orville Dixon – Calabar High School 1:58.73
4. Daniel Wint – Manchester High 1:58.89
After observing a few ‘Champs’ qualifying meets I believe track fans are again in for another spectacle this year. Rayon Butler remains in the class with the smooth and efficient running Jauavney James last year’s Class 3 champion joining ranks. James who represents St. Elizabeth Technical (STETHS) is also the reigning CARIFTA Under-17 1500-metre champion.
Rayon Butler has shown that he is ready for all-comers this year with a majestic run on the 4x800m anchor leg at the Gibson Relays surging past the K.C runner who occupied the lead and taking Holmwood Technical to a memorable victory. Both James with a season best of 1:57.45 and Butler 1:53.74 have been in tremendous form, which augurs well for their highly anticipated match up.
This impressive lineup should also include K.C’s utility competitor Kristoff Darby and teammate Shane Buchanan, Calabar’s Akeeme Francis and the St. Jago High pair of Leon Clarke and Timar Barrett. Without a doubt, this seesaw event will be just as compelling as and probably much faster than the finals last year.
1500-Metre Class 2
Another super race between Rayon Butler and Jauavney James is likely on the cards. This race will be a tactical one as it brings together two champions with very contrasting styles. James who broke the Class 3 1500m record last year usually takes the lead early and apply pressure by maintaining a fast pace. He is also adept at staying with the pack and then overtakes his opponents in the final 100 metres.
Butler on the other hand is like a tracker who never takes his eagle eyes off his target. His patience and power makes him the perfect and most dangerous opponent for James. Butler is eager to make amends for his fourth place finish in this event last year.
This event is by no means a two-horse race as Shane Henry of Wolmer’s Boys is quite capable of upsetting his more fancied rivals. The finals should also include J.C’s Kashiek Brown alongside the K.C duo Damoy Boyd and Shane Buchanan. Buchanan created a huge upset at the CARIFTA trials when he defeated James in the Under-18 1500-metre finals. This got many K.C fans very excited and they are now eyeing 9 points from this event.
In my view, James had only himself to blame as he toyed with the field and paid the ultimate price when he allowed Buchanan to slip away, and opened up too wide a margin. This will be a spectators’ delight as these youngsters are currently running faster times than seen in last year’s final. Will Buchanan survive the onslaught from Butler and James? A super race awaits us; bring out the drums, whistles, and horns. It would be wonderful to see the 4 minute mark breached.