By Noel "Bravo" Francis, Special to

The third day of the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys & Girls Championships provided plenty fireworks which kept track and field fans thoroughly entertained and satisfied. Some of the performances at this stage have surpassed our expectations and have left us with a huge appetite for more and scrambling to get tickets for the final day where over 40 finals are scheduled.

For the last few months, the boys’ 100m and 200m in all 3 classes generated the most interesting debates at water coolers, fast food restaurants, bars and all the sports talk programmes in Jamaica. Therefore, it was no surprise when all the top sprinters mentioned in our previews advanced comfortably from their respective heats on Thursday. Several of the athletes despite battling strong negative headwinds conserved their energy in the 100m as they were also competing in the 200m semi-finals later that evening.

At least 15 boys ran lifetime bests in Classes 1, 2 & 3 200m including all eight finalists who will contest the Class 1 final on Saturday. The excitement started in the first of three semi-finals in the boys Class 3 200m when Calabar wonder kid Tyreke Wilson won impressively in a personal best of 21.90 seconds running into a negative (-1.1) headwind. The record is 21.87 seconds. Wilson’s teammate and new Class 3 400m record holder Christopher Taylor reminded everyone of his sprinting prowess with the second fastest semi-final time of 22.09 also in a negative (-1.0) headwind. The time is Taylor’s personal best.

Some persons feel the boys’ Class 2 200m final will be the fastest ever with Raheem Chambers of St. Jago High locking horns with Jhevaugn Matherson and Akeem Bloomfied of Kingston College. The tall and powerful Bloomfield sent out a strong message that the 200m title is now on auction and only the most suitable bidder will succeed. He ran a personal best of 21.06 and looks to have another gear that he will use in the finals on Saturday. Bloomfield’s teammate Jhevaughn Matherson was in the toughest semi-final as he got a chance to test his readiness against his nemesis Raheem Chambers of St. Jago. Raheem exploded out of the blocks and led temporarily before Matherson went into overdrive and eased pass him into the straight for an impressive victory in a personal best of 21.08. Despite Chambers who ran 21.66 easing down considerably, after Matherson overtook him the whispers and discussions among the fans had already started about Saturday’s final.

An amazing run by the enigmatic Jevaughn Minzie in a personal best of 20.37 seconds had the appreciative crowd at the National Stadium buzzing. The main reason for the murmurs was how Minzie dismissed the highly touted Javon Francis with aplomb and now looks set to collect his first ever medal at ‘Champs’ in this Class 1 event. Francis who some persons believe can win the double (200m, 400m) ran a personal best (20.53).

Zharnel Hughes of Kingston College who looked supreme in the 200m the previous day seems to be getting better round by round. After a false start created anxious moments and the guilty athlete in lane 2 made his way off the track, it was back to business for Hughes who stunned the gathering with an outstanding sprinting display running a personal best (20.32) seconds. With the noise levels getting louder, he made a gesture to the crowd telling them to hush as if this is just the beginning. Zharnel is running so smooth and fast that it is my view that anyone who wishes to beat him at ‘Champs’ will have to do so with a belt. I firmly believe that he will win the double at ‘Champs’ and repeat that success at the World Juniors in Eugene, Oregon U.S.A in July 2014. He has benefitted tremendously from the expert tutelage of sprint guru Glen Mills.

There was a high level of scrutiny surrounding the long awaited entrance of Calabar’s Michael O’Hara in the 200m event after news broke last week that he was nursing a toe injury. He was expected to cruise to victory in the 3rd and final semi-final and probably respond to the earlier times of Minzie and Hughes. However, Martin Manley of St. Jago High who won in a personal best (20.57) ambushed O’Hara who also ran a personal best (20.60) in a thrilling duel to the finish line. The two top Calabar sprinters along with the coaching staff will be watching the tapes of these races repeatedly and probably will have difficulty sleeping until the finals on Saturday. O’Hara and Francis will have to come out with war paint on their faces, angry and miserable to challenge Hughes who seems to be in the driver’s seat for the moment. The lane assignments for this final will play an integral part in the outcome of this big race.

The semi-final winners should get the middle lanes and the second place finishers could get lanes 2, 3 and 7. If conditions are perfect, the record (20.25) will be gone with the wind. Three schools Calabar, K.C. and St. Jago High, each have two representatives in this final. With crucial points at stake, let us see who will take home the lion’s share on Saturday.

Finally, fans also witness two more records tumble in the field events with Shiann Salmon of Hydel High setting a new height of 1.78m in the girls Class 3 high jump eclipsing the previous mark of 1.77m held by Holmwood Tech’s Janeive Russell in 2009. The other record went to Warren Barrett Jnr of Cornwall College who spun and heaved the Shot Put to a new distance of 18.18m in the boys Class 2 event erasing the old mark of 17.41m previously held by Calabar’s Ashinia Miller in 2009.


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