Well, the national championships have come and gone. New champions were crowned and Jamaica might be saying farewell to some of their former champions. Compared to previous recent championships these were relatively subdued. There were few memorable moments but for the most part things were relatively low-keyed.
Omar McLeod, for me, was the highlight of these championships. The manner in which he won his first national title in a world leading time suggests that Jamaica has found itself its newest global star. His 12.97 was not only the fastest time in the world this year, it was also new NCAA record, breaking Renaldo Nehemiah’s 36-year-old all dates, all-time record of 13.00 that set back in 1979.
It also told the world that McLeod could be considered a favourite for the world title in Beijing. It’s early days yet and the 2013 champion David Oliver did run 13.04s at the US trials in Oregon this past weekend but the way this youngster has been running all season long, suggests that it would not really be a surprise if he came home with the gold.
The way he eased to that 13.24s in the semi-final, hardly breaking a sweat suggests that he is already world class.
It was also heartening to see Hansle Parchment return to form. 13.08 for second, this man, who is the first Jamaican to break 13 seconds, and McLeod will make a formidable duo for Jamaica in late August. It certainly feels good to have two sub-13 hurdlers going in.
What also looked good was the form of Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce, who despite returning from some injury worries, blazed a world-leading 10.79 which suggests that she will be ready to defend her 100-metre title this summer. We only now hope that she fully overcomes those hamstring niggles that have been bothering her this season.
It was also nice to see Natasha Morrison make the team with her 11.03 run for second. Morrison has been knocking on the door for the past few years and she finally kicked it in with her performance. Let us now hope she can stay healthy as the season wears on because we know her coach Stephen Francis will get her below 11-seconds by the time the championships roll around at the end of August.
Alas, even as we celebrate the finding of new talent in the short sprint I fear we may be seeing the last of Veronica Campbell Brown. At 33, Queen VCB is no longer the force she was and her 11.06 time suggests that the end is perhaps nearer than we are all willing to accept. With Beijing still two months away, we would hope we will see her form improve even if it is for one last hurrah. Kerron Stewart also looks to be past her best but we can only hope for her to show us one last glimmer before he light fades for good.
Sherone Simpson though, seems to have rediscovered the kind of form that suggests that more is left in her tank. After languishing at MVP for the last few years before he departure in the wake of what was an unfortunate doping scandal that has driven her ‘underground’, a change of camp seemed to have brought for the 2006 Commonwealth Games 200-metre champion back to some life.
After a season with Loren Seagrave, Simpson returned to the island in late 2014 and has been working with Sprintec’s Maurice Wilson. He has somehow found a way to have her run consistently if not blazing fast in 2015. Her fourth place finish in the 100m in 11.14s and second place finish in the 200 metres (22.77)behind rising star Elaine Thompson, suggests that the once fastest woman in the world, will add value to the national team this summer.
Speaking of Thompson, when she was withdrawn from the 100 metres, many were disappointed. The youngster who celebrated her birthday on Sunday was among the fastest women in the world this year by virtue of her 10.97, 10.94 and 10.84 times which led many to expect to have seen her line up in the 100 metres. Instead, she won the 200 metres comfortably in a pedestrian 22.51, a time that is not going to excite many. However, Francis has told media that she is being prepared to run the 200m in Beijing, so lets see whether his plan is a resounding success or an abject failure.
Against the backdrop of a struggling Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell has been a sight for sore eyes. Fit and healthy for the first time in years, Powell claimed his sixth national title in 9.84s and could be the man leading the Jamaican charge for medals in Beijing. He has looked fast and his finish has improved a lot. He revealed during these championships that he is not starting as well as we have become accustomed to seeing but he intends to fix that before he arrives in China. If he can do that, those 9.84s become 9.7s and that can only be a good thing.
It was also great to see Nickel Ashmeade return to form and Kemar Bailey Cole make a good return from what has been a nightmare of a season so far. He was felled by ChickV and two hamstring injuries but got up to run his fastest time of the year 9.97, literally coming straight from a physio’s table. We wish him the best going forward. He deserves it.
Christine Day, who won her first national title; Shericka Jackson and Stephanie McPherson look ready to take on the rest of the world in Beijing. 50.16, 50.31 and 50.49 means all three ladies will be individual forces to reckon with in China and will form part of what should be a formidable mile relay squad along with Anastasia LeRoy, Novelene Williams-Mills and perhaps a Kaliese Spencer, who was noticeably absent from these championships even though she was down to contest the 400m. She already has a bye in the 400-metre hurdles as the 2014 Diamond League champion.
Day seems to ready to come of age while Jackson is still finding her feet. The latter’s immense potential is clearly not too far away from being fully unleashed upon the world and what a day that will be. This weekend, she got personal bests 51.01, 50.65 and 50.31. She seems on her way to at least a 50-point-zero something or faster this summer. If not, she will certainly get there next season.
The men’s 400 metres was full of promise. Javon Francis, once he recognizes that running 20-point splits for 200 might be a little too fast for now, he certainly is a good prospect for a medal but he has a good way to go if he is to make that happen. Y0ungsters like Cedenio, Gardiner and van Niekerk will be hard to get around but all in good time. Rusheen McDonald also seems to be coming into his own even though he still seems to lack an understanding of how to run his race and it was pleasing to see Ricardo Chambers finally return to a decent time of 45.10 after years of battling injury and taking time to complete his degree.
Jamaica will be sending two women to run the 800 metres in China. Natoya Goule, who graduated from Clemson this year ran a personal best 1:59.63 as did Semoya Campbell who has improved dramatically this season to produce a 1:59.92. I do believe this is the first time ever two Jamaican women have gone below two minutes in the same year and at the same meet. This historic achievement bodes well for the country in China. As Goule put it, she now has someone to train with. I see it as someone to push her. Both are hungry for international success and they could well push each other to their respective goals as both seem ready to go faster still.
None of these improved performances however, guarantees success at the World Championships this summer but they certainly will make things a little easier to swallow, because while some of our veterans are on their last laps, there is a new dawn not too far on the horizon.