Hubert Lawrence: Relay magic at Gibson-McCook Relays
From a super-fast 4x400m run from the St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) girls in the morning to Christopher Taylor's zooming comeback for Calabar in Class Two, to the all-star run by Javauney James in the 4x800m, to the fascinating Ashley Williams-Junelle Bromfield duel in the 4x400m final, the 40th Gibson/McCook Relays was filled with baton magic.
Despite the rain, the storied relay carnival delivered excitement as always. Curiously, the events inside the National Stadium have fans speaking of a new athletic power in the land, Sprintec Track Club.
Based at the G.C. Foster College for Physical Education and led by noted coach Maurice Wilson, Sprintec took both 4x100m for Clubs and Institutions and put up real resistance in the men's 4x400m final. It took a 44.8-second anchor by relay genius Javon Francis to reel in Sprintec.
The 2015 Pan-Am 100m champion, Sherone Simpson, has rebuilt her career at Sprintec and Anastacia LeRoy may well be on the verge of moving up from her status as merely being a reliable member of the women's 4x400m pool at major championships.
Commonwealth 200m champion, Rasheed Dwyer, has been joined there by former Calabar High and Akan sprinter Oshane Bailey and the results are promising.
To be fair, neither Racers nor MVP turned up at full strength. That meant no Usain Bolt, no Warren Weir, no Kemar Bailey-Cole and no Johan Blake from Racers; and no Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and no Elaine Thompson from the MVP.
Two weeks earlier, MVP's Carrie Russell, Thompson, Andrea Reid-Goodwin and Fraser-Pryce won the 4x100m at the Western Relays in 43.31 seconds. That's 0.3 faster than the winning time last Saturday night.
Still, the Sprintec efforts at Gibson/McCook were notable. The win in the men's 4x100m was eye-catching at 38.59 seconds despite cool and wet conditions. It's great to have another source of athletic excellence to join the established clubs. The hope is that others will rise up, too.
The day almost got off to a miserable start, but fans were rescued at the gate by organising committee chairman, Professor Rainford Wilks. It seemed that the main gate security team thought access should be granted at 9 a.m., the set time of the first race. Thanks to the professor's intervention, all was well.
The day that unfolded saw an injury-free return for Germany Gonzales, an early morning 4x400m jaunt for hurdles star Hansle Parchment and hot racing in the high school ranks.
Thanks to a big anchor by James, STETHS edged St Jago in the boys' 4x800m. Emerging Holmwood prospect, Williams outduelled the outstanding Bromfield after STETHS had already run three minutes 36.91 seconds in the morning heats.
The second fastest time in qualifying was all of five seconds slower.
Happily, the apparent injury to Calabar High's Class Two sprint ace, Tyreke Wilson, has turned out to be nothing more serious than a cramp. Taylor, Michael Stephens and Dejour Russell retrieved the situation in the 4x100m final in spectacular fashion, but never appeared again for the day. With Champs just around the corner, caution was advisable.
Those who thrive on records might have left disappointed. The rest of us went home invigorated by a great show and with Champs on the brain.
- Hubert Lawrence has made notes at trackside since 1980.