By Robert Taylor, Special to Trackalerts.com
With the great history of Herb McKenley, Arthur Wint, George Rhoden, and a few others in the 1980’s such as Bertland Cameron and Gregory Haughton who were medal winners; Jamaica's male quarter-milers have been disappointing on the world stage. In the decade of the 2000’s, we teased, but have never showed consistent success. In previous years Jermaine Gonzales was a challenger for a few podium positions, however injuries have plagued his promising career.
I have seen many athletes over the years write or speak with great optimism, only to see the male athletes produce a consistent slew of 45 seconds in the 400m at the senior level; a few 44 seconds have turned up here and there, but none have been able to reach a championship final, much less receive a medal. Many wonder how can a country produce so many world class short sprinters and yet struggle to produce a noteworthy world class 400m male athlete.
In looking to the future, the years 2013 and 2014 showed some promise. Those two years showed the Jamaica high school system producing 45 seconds and multiple 46 seconds athletes. Gone are the days where 47 seconds in class 1 would guarantee a medal or victory. We are now seeing15 year old class 2 athlete Christopher Taylor of Calabar high school running 46.87 seconds, and Twayne Crooks a 19 year old class 1 athlete of Kingston College (KC) running 46.92. Both athletes seem to have the energy that will allow them to significantly run faster times. We have not seen the two 2014 46 seconds athletes from St. Jago High School as of yet; they are Martin Manley, 46.2+ and Nathon Allen, 46.1+.
There are other 2014 46 seconds athletes that are in the shadow waiting and hoping to surprise; namely Marco Doodnaughtsing (KC), Okeen Williams of St Elizabeth Technical High School and Devaughn Baker of Jamaica College; the current class 2 record holder. It is definitely too early to predict times for the March High School Championship, but I would not be surprised if multiple athletes in class 1 run in the 45 seconds range and at least one or potentially two in the class 2 running in the low 46 seconds range.
Sometime ago I mentioned that there has been alot of discussion about Jamaica developing a successful male 400m program, however, the hurdles seem to be the next in line to join the short sprints. This situation has not changed in my view. With the extremely gifted Michael O’Hara seemingly serious about the 110 hurdles, the exploits of the indomitable Jaheel Hyde at the youth and junior level, the smooth and efficient style of Tyler Mason, and the two Williams from St Elizabeth Technical High School, and a few other athletes, they are ensuring there is no reason to think otherwise. Nevertheless, the 400m seems to be on a steep upward trajectory in quality for the Jamaican youth and junior athletes.
No one can forget the high school great, Javon “Donkeyman” Francis. He set the bar high when he erased the great Usain Bolt record of 45.35 with a new 2014 record of 45.00 seconds. I suspect that if he was not injured leading up to last year High School Championship, he would have gone under 45 seconds. The view is that at least two will go under 46 seconds in the senior boys (class 1) 400m. That would be significant because it would be a first for the Jamaica High School Athletic Championship.
It may be too early to think of times since the High School Championship starts on March 24 and ends on March 28, and there a few top 400m athletes that have not yet run their event. Regardless of the current situation, this year I am expecting some electrifying performances with the last event; the 4x400m showcasing the depth in quality Jamaica has reached in their 400m program.
We have not seen enough to formulate an educated guess as yet, so the prediction, postulation, evaluation and expectation are far ahead of real time observation. Unfortunately I am having difficulty waiting on things to unfold. This should be understandable, after all, Jamaica's male quarter-mile production have been lost in the wilderness for way too long.
**The views expressed in this article are those of the author (Robert Taylor) and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, TrackAlerts.com.