44.93! That’s all that has been going through my head since Saturday afternoon when 17-year-old Akeem Bloomfield tore down the homestretch and into history as the first Jamaican schoolboy to break 45 seconds at Champs. In doing so, young Bloomfield, who I don’t believe has a dozen quarter-mile races under his belt also broke Davian Clarke’s national junior record of 45.21 set 20 years ago. It was one of 16 records set at Champs 2015 and if ratified,would also be the second fastest time in the world this year behind Qatar’s Adelalelah Haroun’s 44.68s run in Sasolburg just nine days prior. Bloomfield’s 45.41 at CARIFTA Trials was the previous second best mark in the world.
That for me was the performance of Champs 2015 because from where I stand, Bloomfield may have ushered in a new era of Jamaican 400m sprinting. Jamaica has had high school kids running 45 seconds before. Usain Bolt, Leeford Green, Martin Manley and Javon Francis have all broken 46 seconds while in high school, but I can’t remember a time when so many were running those times all in the same season. Nathon Allen joined the list when he finished behind Bloomfield on Saturday. The 45.30s he clocked made him the fourth high school student this season to achieve the milestone behind Christopher Taylor (45.69), Twayne Crooks (45.93), and of course, the 44-second man himself.
Calabar’s Michael Clarke explained to me that the talent to run the 400m was always here but the nutrition and the know how have finally arrived to bring that talent to the fore and make it count. Shortly after Bloomfield broke through the 45-second barrier to erase Francis’ 45.00 from last year, American sprinter Wallace Spearmon tweeted, “17-year-old Jamaican Akeem Bloomfield just ran 44.93s. Jesus Christ!” Maybe he sees what is possibly coming next from the ‘sprint factory’.
Other than Bloomfield’s mind-blowing run, there were also other jaw-dropping performances at Champs 2015 that will go down in history as perhaps one of the best. It’s becoming a recurring theme these past few years where these high school kids are delivering performances that leave you breathless. Over the past two years Jaheel Hyde have won every possible global title there is to win – 2013 World Youth 110-metre hurdles champion, 2014 World Junior 400-metre hurdles champion, 2014 Youth Olympics 100-metre hurdles champion. Coming into Champs, many would have penciled him in as the 400-metre champion and most were predicting he would also take the 110m hurdles as well given his very lofty accomplishments in the past two years.
In the longer of the hurdle events he was imperious, winning in 49.01s lowering his own mark of 49.49 set last year. The second placed runner was two seconds behind him. The win set up a mouth-watering match up with Michael O’Hara, who has never lost to Hyde at Champs. Hyde opened at CARIFTA Trials with 13.22, faster than Omar McLeod’s Champs record of 13.24s. In the minds of many both obstacles would fall to Hyde on Saturday afternoon. Neither did. The record still stands because of the stiff wind that blew in their faces and because of the Wolmerian’s heavy legs from the record-breaking run in the 400m hurdles the night before. O”Hara proved to be the biggest obstacle and remained unmoved.
Using his superior speed and the knowledge that he had never lost to Hyde to catch the Wolmerian and eventually surpass him towards his third individual gold medal of the championships. On Friday, O’Hara won the first gold on his road to redemption from the awful year he had in 2014 when injury reduced him to being a mere mortal. A photograph of him being consoled by World Championship silver medalist Warren Weir accurately depicted the pain O’Hara suffered from the shame of not living up to his own standards.
These championships, his last, were to prove to be his best. He destroyed his rivals in the 100m in 10.42s, he overwhelmed Hyde in the hurdles winning in, and toyed with the field in the 200m to record a fast 20.60s. He added a fourth when he obliterated the runners on the back stretch of the sprint relay to help his team to an incredible 39.08s. Only the national junior record of 39.05s is faster, but the time has to be one of the fastest ever run by a high school team, if not the fastest ever.
These championships were supposed to be won by Kingston College, a school that produced two 45-second runners and had one of the fastest times in the mile relay this season, but Calabar in the closest battle it has been in for a few years, not only won comfortably enough but closed out the championships with a bang by not only defeating KC in the mile relay but by setting a new record to boot. The winning time of 3:06.76, bettered the mark of 3:08.31 set by St. Jago last year. Kingston College running without Bloomfield, reportedly sore from his record-setting run, was second in 3:08.40 but like Calabar, the mile relay title was just beyond their reach.
Christopher Taylor, who anchored the record-setting team was a three-time gold medalist winning the 400m and 200m prior to his blistering anchor leg. He and Dejour Russell were outstanding in Class 2 for the champions.
Among the girls, I was perhaps most impressed by Edwin Allen’s Shellece Clarke, who was so outstanding it was like she was running against kindergarten kids. Clarke won the 100m, 200m and anchored her sprint relay team to a new record of 44.83, the first Class 2 team to break 45 seconds. Running into a negative wind of 2.1m/s Clarke clocked 11.81s in the 100m and 24.12s into a 2.4m/s wind. She followed those up with a scorching third leg as Edwin Allen broke the record of 45.04 set in 2006 and set a new mark of 44.88s.
St. Jago’s Kimone Shaw and Joanne Reid were also impressive in winning their respective trebles. Reid broke Shaw’s Class 4 200 metre record by more than a tenth of a second while running into a headwind of 1.2m/s! Pretty impressive.
It is not often that Buff Bay gets mentioned in any conversation to do with Champs but Fiona Richards changed all that this year taking both Class 2 shot put and discus titles.
The girl I was most impressed with however, was Lisa Buchanan of Holmwood, who must be the strongest girl in the country winning the 800m, 1500m and 3000m runs. It takes a special kind of person to compete at that level in those three events in a five day span. It was an absolutely incredible performance in yet another incredible meet.