Trials should be a cracker!
The national senior track and field trials got under way yesterday, and I'm keenly anticipating some of the match-ups. The sprint events are overflowing with entrants, while the number of those registered gets less as the distances gets longer. (That, incidentally, should be addressed by the powers that be.) Unlike others, I don't agree that we were born with any special advantages for sprinting. I just feel it's a lack of interest why we struggle in the longer distances. The shorter events, therefore, are what I will focus on here.
Maybe more than any other event, I'm looking forward to the women's 100 metres. For the past decade, one of the Big Four - Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce, Kerron Stewart, Veronica Campbell Brown or Sherone Simpson - have won this event. This year, there is a legitimate threat to that quartet.
Neither Kerron Stewart or Sherone Simpson has been particularly impressive this season. Indeed, there are those who feel that Samantha Henry Robinson, who has run 11.08 this year, could finish ahead of these two. Elaine Thompson, though, has been all the rage this year. Only Shelly-Ann, with 10.81, has run faster than her 10.84. Thompson will be in the top three for sure, but it isn't far-fetched to see her being national champion. She has thrown down the gauntlet in no uncertain manner.
The men's 100 metres should also be exciting. Now that Bolt has decided to pull out, the race should go to Asafa Powell with relative ease, but second could be anyone. Asafa's 9.84, done at the Jamaica Invitational, is by far and away the best time done by a Jamaican this year. No one should catch him.
Second place should go to Nesta Carter. Nesta did 9.98 at the Jamaica Invitational, and along with Asafa, are the only two Jamaicans to go below 10 seconds this year. Who will join these on the podium is not clear-cut.
Andrew Fisher, who has run 10.01 this year, and Senojay Givans (10.03 this year) should be contenders. Not to be ruled out are Nickel Ashmeade or Yohan Blake, who, though he is just back from injury, may spring a surprise.
The men's 400 metres should produce fireworks. I am thinking here that the national record could go. Jermaine Gonzales' 44.40 is the fastest ever time run by a Jamaican over the distance, but there are at least two people who could threaten that time if the conditions are right and if they report in the kind of shape that they have displayed already this year.
Javon Francis, who is the future of men's 400 metres running in Jamaica, has already gone 44.50 this year, and the track and field experts are telling me that he still has a lot to give. Rusheen McDonald has clocked 44.60 this year. With these two pushing each other, that 44.40 record could be in trouble. There isn't anybody else that grabs the imagination. The 15-year-old Calabar schoolboy, Chris Taylor, who is not at the senior trials, probably would be in the top four if he had chosen to compete, which shows his mind-boggling talent, but also emphasises the paucity of quality quarter-milers at the senior level.
men's 110 hurdles a must-see
Another event that the public should turn out to see is the men's 110 hurdles. Hansle Parchment is an Olympic bronze medallist and is probably the on-paper favourite. His best time this year, though, is 13.40, which is not that impressive. Commonwealth champion Andrew Riley has run 13.28 this year and is a genuine contender, but the good money seems to be with Omar McLeod. He has run the fastest time by a Jamaican this year with 13.21. (He has gone faster, but those were wind-aided times.) He was the US collegiate champion this year and is now appearing to be the man to beat.
The final event that I'm especially interested in is the men's 400m hurdles. Of all the standout schoolboy talents at Champs this year, only Jaheel Hyde is likely to do anything of note at the senior trials. Hyde is not expected to win the 400 hurdles event, but if he can find back his Champs form of 49.01, he definitely will be in the mix.
The favourite for the 400m hurdles is Roxroy Cato, the defending champion. Cato has run the fastest time by a Jamaican this year, 48.97, and should take this home. Annsert Whyte could be a dark horse. He has run 49.20 this year, and with an improvement on that, he set the cat among the pigeons.
- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host on KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.