By Noel ‘Bravo’ Francis, Special to TrackAlerts.com
In this, the penultimate feature amongst the girls in the ‘Champs’ countdown journey emphasis is placed on the quarter-mile and half mile events. Last year produced, some fantastic races and thankfully this year track fans will get maximum satisfaction from these star-studded finals.
400-Meter Class 2
Another humdinger looms. The girls who put on a great show in class three last year will be at it again in class two. At least five of the girls from that remarkable race have moved up in class, however, a formidable opposition and returning class two silver medallist awaits them. The highly touted Tiffany James of Papine with a personal best (53.44) fears no one, has looked in spanking form all season, and should win this year. She has been working on her speed and race sharpness as evidenced by her participation in the shorter sprints at several track meets.
She is expected to face a stern test from the robust Taqece Duggan from Hydel High, Allesha Kelly of Guys Hill and Shannon Kalawan of Edwin Allen High. We got a preview of her readiness recently at the CARIFTA trials when she won convincingly in a fast 53.77 seconds. If there is a dark horse in this event, do not look any further than Segale Brown of Petersfield.
400-Meter Class 1
Vere Technical’s Yanique McNeil and Edwin Allen’s Saqukine Cameron should renew their rivalry over this distance in a big way. Last year injury forced Cameron out of making the Class 2 final, which McNeil won in 53.40 seconds. Both young women are now seniors and a hotly contested showdown is on the horizon. However, there is a new twist that is threatening to derail what many had viewed as a two-horse race at the beginning of the season.
The ever improving but unheralded Dawnalee Loney of Balaclava in her first year in Class 1, is going to be one of the rising stars coming out ‘Champs’ this year. She is a clear and present danger. Initially I had predicted her to finish fourth in this race but with her stunning victory at the CARIFTA trials in 52.87, she might be eyeing the top spot at ‘Champs’.
Vere Tech’s Yanique McNeil would have learnt a lot from her mistake at the CARIFTA trials where she ran out of steam after going out too fast for the first 350-meters and Dawnalee Loney caught and passed her near the finish line. The other quality quarter-milers who should make this event one of the highlights of ‘Champs’ are Cameka Witter of St. Andrew Technical High School (STATHS), Asaine Hall of Petersfield and Camira Haughton of Edwin Allen High. This cracking race will certainly have fans jumping and shouting all the way.
800-Meter Class 2
Junelle Bromfield of STETHS last year’s Class 3 800-meter gold medallist makes her entry into Class 2 along with several quality up and coming middle distance runners. Bloomfield recently won the Under-18 800-meter title at the CARIFTA trials in 2:10.10, which should boost her confidence. I am very excited by a potential line up which might include alongside Bromfield, the Holmwood Technical pair of Sashekia Heath and Lisa Buchanan. This final could also include the Edwin Allen pair of Shannon Kalawan and Asshanni Robb.
However, many believe Sasha-Gaye Whyte of Vere Technical is a serious contender; she ran 2:12.09 placing third in the Under-20 girls’ final at the CARIFTA trials. Whyte’s presence and aggressive running could make this a nice tactical race. For me this is another tough race to call, as the above-mentioned athletes are all capable of winning which adds to the intrigue surrounding this event.
800-Meter Class 1
National junior representative Marleena Eubanks should be a welcoming sight back at ‘Champs’. She will be seeking to erase the painful memories of last year’s unfortunate head injury that halted her progress. She is in her final year at ‘Champs’ and is well aware that success in her pet events (also 1500M & 3000M) is vital to Edwin Allen’s title hopes.
This final promises to be an exciting affair with the likes of Monique McPherson of St. Jago, Chantai Smith of STETHS and Cameka Witter of STATHS battling the front running Eubanks. There is a possibility that Vere Tech’s Yanique McNeil could be a competitor in this event. At the CARIFTA trials, McPherson won the Under-20 final in 2:09.07 followed by Smith in 2:10.28. Do not be surprised if a photo finish decides this race. It could also be one of the most sentimental events of the championships.