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Taking it one day at a time

Published:Wednesday | April 6, 2016 | 12:00 AMHubert Lawrence
Shannon Kalawan

Undefeated junior 400-metre hurdler Shannon Kalawan is taking her breakthrough season one day at a time, according to Edwin Allen Comprehensive High hurdles coach Kirk Douglas.

In the weeks to come, Douglas will be helping Kalawan to improve, with the World Junior Championships her main target. Success at those meets would add to the ISSA Boys and Girls' Championships and Carifta gold medals she has already collected.

Asked to explain her progress from a personal best of 58.93 seconds to her Carifta Games winning time of 56.29, Douglas said: "I don't think she has run a clean race yet, which we will work on at least for the World Juniors, hopefully."

Injury interrupted progress

In an exclusive interview, he noted that an injury interrupted her progress after she had been the runner-up at Champs 2014.

"Last year, she started well, but she got hurt, and that's what people don't remember," he recalled.

A string of lifetime-best clockings - from 57.20 at Central Championships to 56.80 at Carifta Trials, to 56.41 at Champs - had observers wondering if Kalawan could also qualify for the Jamaican Olympic team.

Douglas, once a star hurdler and coach at Kingston College, isn't counting that out. "I don't put it out of reach but we're just going to take it one day at a time," he said. "We have to look at these three weeks to Penns and then a six-week programme to the Junior Trials."

Kalawan is only 0.09 from the Olympic qualifying standard of 56.20 seconds.

"Of course," he concluded on the matter of the Olympics, "the thing there is two weeks later, so she can race again at the Senior Trials."

The National Junior Championships is set for June 18 and 19, with the four-day National Seniors starting on June 30.

It's a fair bet that the 18-year-old Edwin Allen student athlete will improve in alternating lead legs by then.

"We've been working on using the 'weak' lead leg, if you can call it that," he related. "So if you notice, she doesn't really panic."

Kalawan has taken her new found success in her stride and according to Douglas, "has been a dream to coach all season just because of her attitude".

She is the latest in a long line of successful 400-metre hurdlers nurtured by head coach Michael Dyke and directed by Douglas.

During his 13-year tenure as hurdles coach at Edwin Allen, the school has taken the Champs gold medal seven times through Sherene Pinnock, Nikita and Ristananna Tracey, Camira Haughton, and Kalawan. Pinnock, a two-time World Junior bronze medal winner, and Andrea Sutherland in 2006, and Nikita and Ristananna in 2009 and 2010, gave Dyke's team one-two finishes at Champs.

Ristananna has the Champs record at 55.81 seconds.