By Noel 'Bravo' Francis, Special

Jamaica has produced quality 110m hurdlers over the years who have held their own against the best and earned worldwide respect. Maurice Wignall, Richard Phillips and Dwight Thomas competed with distinction for the country for many years and paved the way for new kid on the block Hansle Parchment who had a breakout season in 2012 climaxing with a bronze medal at the London Olympic Games.

Parchment is the current National record holder (13.05) in the event and competed in his final year at ‘Champs’ for Kingston College. The exploits of our athletes’ table topping performances at the World Youth Championships in Donetsk, Ukraine brought pride and joy especially the three gold medals attained in the hurdles events, one each in the boys and girls sprint hurdles and the other in the boys 400m hurdles. Many fans are happy these athletes will all be on show at the 104th staging of the Boys & Girls Championships representing their respective schools. 

All the hurdles events at ‘Champs’ this year should be very competitive. I am of the view that the most drama will occur in this segment of ‘Champs’. Here we preview some of the highly anticipated confrontations.

100-Metre Hurdles Class 3

This event is shaping up to be a battle amongst four schools: J.C., K.C., Calabar and Ardenne High. In the few obstacle races seen at the development meets, Jordan Roberts (JC) and Dejour Russell (Calabar) have been swapping the top positions.

They are the only competitors to have gone below 14 seconds and it would be a shocker if the gold medal goes elsewhere. Their main challenge should come from Ardenne High’s Julian Salmon who has been consistent all season and another Calabar athlete Michael Stephens.

There is hardly any event at ‘Champs’ that features Calabar and their archrivals Kingston College is not represented. The ‘famed purples’ should counter the Calabar threat with Yashawn Hamilton and Tyrese Smith. A photo finish could decide this event.

110-Metre Hurdles Class 2

I was very impressed last year with St. Jago High’s Kamali Simpson, Renaldo Banton of Steths and Calabar’s Alex Robinson in the record-breaking Class 3 final. They will definitely treat the fans to another super race in Class 2. One of the reasons I am looking forward to this event is because of the other hurdlers expected to complete the available lanes.

Last year’s 5th and 6th place finishers in this event Rohan Cole of STETHS and Khori Benneth of Wolmer’s Boys are determine to improve on those positions.  Additionally, Kingston College’s Chadrick Brown and Orlando Smith of STETHS have looked consistent all season and will not be showing up at ‘Champs’ to make up numbers.

The top athletes have so far posted the following season bests: Orlando Smith 14.08, Khori Bennett 14.09, Chadrick Brown 14.30 and Alex Robinson 14.45. At the CARIFTA trials, a bulky looking Kamali Simpson posted a wind assisted 14.07 in the heats, however in the final he crashed into a hurdle and finished last. Nevertheless, he showed enough intent to satisfy me that he will be a factor at ‘Champs’.

Renaldo Banton who came to ‘Champs’ last year with high credentials has scarcely been seen anywhere this season and is probably injured or just quietly preparing.

110-Metre High Hurdles Class I

Many persons are hoping that the talented Jaheel Hyde of Wolmer’s Boys and Calabar’s Michael O’Hara turn up for this race in peak condition. The order of events on the ‘Champs’ schedule might be grueling for athletes doing multiple events. Therefore, it is my hope that O’Hara and Hyde are well conditioned and have the strength and endurance to give the fans a special performance.

Hyde is the reigning 2013 World Youth Champion at the 110m hurdles and is in spanking form this season. After his performances at the CARIFTA trials where he produced sizzling times in both the 110m and 400m hurdles events, winning two gold medals at ‘Champs’ is no longer wishful thinking it is a real possibility.

On the other hand, O’Hara has not lost a hurdles race at ‘Champs’ since 2010 when he placed fourth. More importantly, he has defeated Hyde on every occasion at ‘Champs’ in a final. The stage is now set for a massive showdown between these two.

Another talented athlete expected to be in this final is Jamaica College’s Tyler Mason last year’s silver medallist and current CARIFTA trials Under-20 winner. Interestingly, Tyler Mason was the winner of the 2010 hurdles race that O’Hara lost.

Fans are anxiously awaiting Hyde’s showdown against his great rivals Michael O’Hara and Tyler Mason in the 110m high hurdles final. I am eager to witness these three specialists getting a great start and attacking the high hurdles matching strides and powering to the finish line in another must see event. St. Jago High’s Roje Jackson-Chin is also a fierce competitor who seems ready to capitalize on any unfortunate blunders from his opponents. Michael O’Hara is the clear favourite but he needs competitors who will ensure the hurdles are not his only obstacles in the race. Some amazing feats occurred in all classes of the boys’ sprint hurdles events last year where every record was broken in addition to the 400-metre hurdles open. Some observers expect something special in this particular event. If everything goes according to plan, this race could leave the spectators speechless for a few moments.

In the next feature, we will be looking at the most exciting middle distance events in years.


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