Hubert Lawrence: Why we run the races
Most things ran according to the script last weekend at the 122nd Penn Relays. Big wins for Edwin Allen High, Kingston College (KC) and St Jago High were predicted by many. There was, however, one event staged inside the chilly Franklin Field venue that proved why we actually run the races.
Jamaica College (JC) arrived there as one of the favourites for the Championship boys 4x100 metres, but flubbed the second baton change. Perhaps pressure had been applied by a high-speed second leg by Akeem Bloomfield for KC. The national junior 400-metre record holder helped his school to equal the meet record set by Calabar at 39.63 seconds in bright conditions last year.
Hopes for a JC track victory seemed to end there. Calabar and KC held the high cards for the 4x400m, with the impressive TC Williams High School a clear and present danger. Bloomfield was withdrawn due to the threat of injury, and remarkably, a businesslike JC quartet ran the field off its feet in the final.
Calabar, the winner at Boys and Girls' Championships, got an urgent anchor leg out of wonder boy Christopher Taylor. Noah Lyles, runner-up to Taylor at the 2015 World Youth Championships, zoomed his team forward. It was all in vain as Maleik Smith, 200-metre sprinter Michael Campbell, Devaughn Baker and Phillip Lemonios produced a big surprise.
Just third at Champs in 3:15.06, the Old Hope Road school blasted that season's best down to 3:12.34. Though Baker gave them a decisive advantage on the third leg, his team had no baton carries as quick as those by Taylor and Lyles. Smart team running did the trick instead.
With the Philly chill slowing sprinters all weekend, the improvement by JC from 3:15.06 at Champs to 3:12.34 at Penns is no mean feat. By contrast, Calabar clocked 3:09.77 seconds at Champs and 3:13.09 on the new track at Franklin Field.
The rest of the high-school competition ran to the script, with the JC pair of Clayton Brown and O'Brien Wasome taking the high and triple jumps, respectively, and with Shanice Love of Excelsior High continuing a great season, with a national junior record in the discus.
Wins in the college men's discus and the high-school section by Pan-Am Fedrick Dacres of the University of the West Indies and Munro's Kino Dunkley suggested good things for the future. With the University of Technology (UTech) having an off year, the G.C. Foster College men stepped confidently into the breach with a 4x100 win.
Spare a thought for Rayan Holmes of Edwin Allen. Pulled from the start of the Champs 400-metre hurdles final through illness, Holmes redeemed himself with victory in the same event on the last day of the 122-year-old event.
The boys' 4x800m was as enthralling as Holmes' success was heartwarming. St Jago, winners in the girls' long jump, through Tissana Hickling, held off STETHS in 7: 33.71 seconds. It was the first win by the school in the 4x800m since 1990.
For all of that, and the win by Jamaica's men in the USA versus the World 4x100m, pride of place goes to JC. Their dominating 4x400m win was a shock. In a meet where most things went with the form book, here was one time where predictions crashed and burned.
- HUBERT LAWRENCE has made notes at track side since 1980.