By Noel ‘Bravo’ Francis, Special to TrackAlerts.Com
Long before Jamaica gained independence, the country received worldwide recognition of a different kind through athletics. Between 1948 and 1952, Jamaica dominated through the efforts of some of the most legendary and trendsetting quarter-milers the world has ever seen. These men, Herb McKenley, Arthur Wint and George Rhoden paved the way for Jamaica’s athletics, which has now flourished at an exponential rate in recent years.
The country’s success of late has been in the shorter sprints with the incomparable Usain Bolt holding centre stage. However, track fans are witnessing a renaissance in the event (400m) that first brought fame to the country so many years ago.
Fast forward to the 9th IAAF World Youth Championship to be staged in Cali, Colombia. Jamaica’s 15-year old sensation Christopher Taylor will be trying to emulate the exploits of compatriot Martin Manley who won 400m gold at the 2013 World Championship in Donetsk, Ukraine. Interestingly, the Caribbean has only had two winners in this event with Kirani James (2009) being the other winner besides Manley. The pint-size Taylor has come through a long and gruelling season with flying colours and will be aiming to finish it off in style in Colombia with the World Youth title.
The youngster has been attracting a lot of attention since last year chalking up records in his age group events. This season, Taylor set a world age best for 15-year olds when he ran 45.69 in early March at Jamaica’s CARIFTA trials. The record stood for three months as he further enhanced his reputation registering a personal best 45.55 on June 13, 2015 at a JAAA All Comers Meet.
Taylor went to St. Kitts & Nevis on the Easter weekend and claimed the gold medal in the Under-18 category at the CARIFTA Games establishing a new record of 46.64 seconds. In between those dates he won the 200m/400m double at the Jamaica High School championships dubbed ‘Champs’ in creditable times despite a hectic schedule.
Some observers believe that it is of utmost importance, that leading into the championship, Taylor is treated and managed properly. This season, Taylor has the unique task of peaking twice for two major championships, that is, the Jamaica High School and World Youth championships spread 3 ½ months apart. He seems to be up to the task.
Christopher Taylor will not be the only one carrying the Jamaica flag in this event. His high school teammate, the talented Anthony Carpenter will also make the trip to Colombia.
Many persons are hoping that he is fit and rearing to go and increase the likelihood of Jamaica taking the top two spots in this event, which would be a first in the country’s history. Carpenter achieved his personal best of 46.92 seconds at the Jamaica Youth trials and based on the conditions could lower that mark in Cali, Colombia.
JACOB ST. CLAIR
Trinidad & Tobago’s (T&T) Jacob St. Clair is an outstanding quarter-miler in the making. St. Clair is member of the Abilene Wildcats Athletic Club, a leading track & field club in Trinidad & Tobago. At the CARIFTA Games in St. Kitts, he ran a personal best (46.73) in a spirited chase behind Jamaica’s Christopher Taylor. Both athletes went below the previous games record of 47.26 seconds. St. Clair will no doubt be aiming to have his name etched among the twin-island republic’s hall of fame in the near future.
He should get inspiration and benefit from the quarter-mile revival happening in his country’s national athletics programme. The country’s upward trend is being spearheaded by a number of exciting one-lappers such as 2014 World Junior Champion, Machel Cedenio, 2012 London Olympics 400m bronze medallist Lalonde Gordon, 2006 World Junior Champion and 2009 World Championship bronze medallist, Renny Quow, and rising star Deon Lendore who won the Bowerman Trophy for the top collegiate male athlete of 2013-2014. St. Clair could definitely finish in the top three as long as he utilizes Taylor as a tracking device.
Jamal Walton of the Cayman Islands is another Caribbean athlete with the potential of being a finalist in this event in Colombia. Walton at 15-years old made the 400m semi-finals at the World Junior Championships in Eugene, Oregon where he failed to finish. He has improved his times over both 200m and 400m this year. He came to the CARIFTA Games with great potential; however, he had to settle for joint third place at the recent CARIFTA Games behind Christopher Taylor and Jacob St. Clair.
At the Cayman Invitational, Walton was runner-up to Chris Taylor in the high school section in a then personal best of 46.30 seconds. A week later on May 23, 2015 he improved his personal best to 46.22 seconds. Walton will be going to Colombia knowing what he will be up against and making plans to launch a counter attack.
Several persons in the know believe the Caribbean has a great chance of gaining top positions in this event with the current crop of exciting talent around. The wait is almost over to see which of the four Caribbean athletes currently ranked in the top ten of the IAAF World list will make the podium.
About the Author:
Noel ‘Bravo’ Francis is a very exciting and creative freelance sports writer specializing in the fields of athletics and cricket. His colourful down to earth yet professional personality makes him a favourite amongst athletes and fans. Readers are often exposed to his detailed knowledge and passion which usually increase their interest in the athletes, events and the sport overall. He has a first degree in Banking & Finance and works in the financial industry. Contact Noel at [email protected]