Hi-five for Jamaica athletes
There were five wins for Jamaican athletes at the Jamaica International Invitational (JII) meet at the National Stadium on Saturday night, with the Stephen Francis-coached Janieve Russell and Elaine Thompson leading the way with big wins, while there were also wins for Kemar Bailey-Cole, Asafa Powell, and Javon Francis.
There were also top-three finishes for Jamaican females Anneisha McLaughlin-Whilby, Novlene Williams-Mills, Danielle Williams, and Stephenie-Ann McPherson.
A finalist in the women's 400 metres hurdles at last year's World Championships in Beijing, China, Russell ran a well-controlled race and hit top form in the latter stages to get by early leader Leah Nugent of the United States, to win in a personal best of 54.61 seconds, the second-fastest time this season. Ristananna Tracey finished strongly for second in a season best 55.31 seconds, while Nugent was third in 56.24.
"I am feeling extremely happy after my performance, knowing that I did a PR so early in the season, and this has set the tone for the rest of the season. (The) fast time was not on my mind as I ran to the instructions of my coach, to take it easy, as I went out a bit slow and finished strong at the end as the objective was to finish among the top three, and this is telling me and Jamaica that something special will happen this year as for the first time, I am running injury-free early, and I am very excited," said Russell.
Thompson, the World Championships 200m silver medallist, defended her JII 100m title with a big performance, clocking a wind-aided 10.71 seconds (+2.4 metres per second wind reading). American English Gardner was second in 10.85 seconds, with third going to Trinidad and Tobago, Michelle Lee-Ahye, in 10.98 seconds.
Defending champion Shaunae Miller of The Bahamas, the world leader in the women's 400m, cantered away from rivals to win the 200m in 22.14 seconds (+2.2 mps), with McLaughlin-Whilby second in 22.70, and the United States' Shalonda Solomon third in 22.80 seconds.
NO START FOR SHELLY
Jamaica's World and Olympic champion, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce who was expected to compete, did not start in the event.
Billed as the female race of the meet, the women's 400 did not disappoint. It was close going all the way before 2014 winner and last year's second-place finisher Francena McCorory of the United States won in 50.52 ahead of Williams-Mills, 50.87, while McPherson placed third in 51.20.
Competing in her first race at home since winning the 100m hurdles World title a year ago, Williams, in a blanket finish, was nipped for third in 12.55 seconds. The United States pair of Brianna Rollins, 12.52 and Queen Harrison (12.54) took first and second, respectively.
Among the men, Bailey-Cole, who was missing from the track most of last year due to injury, won a close 100m in 10.01 seconds. The United States' Mike Rodgers was second in 10.03, with local Julian Forte third in 10.06.
"I am happy going into the Trials this year as I didn't have a win on my mind as I just came out to see where I am because of the hamstring injury I had, but definitely, this win has really boosted my confidence for the remainder of the season," said Bailey-Cole.
Powell led from the start and took the men's 200 metres in 20.45 seconds.
Beejay Lee of the United States was second in 20.52, the same time done by third-place Jamaican Rasheed Dwyer.
Francis closed the show by winning the men's 400m in a season best 44.85 seconds, getting the better of Vernon Norwood of the United States (45.00) and Kevin Borlee of Belgium, 45.17.
Earlier, there was a vintage performance from World Junior 400m hurdles champion Jaheel Hyde. He upstaged his more senior rivals, only to be edged out by Bahamian Jeffrey Gibson (48.96).
Hyde clocked a season best 49.16 seconds, with experienced American Bershawn Jackson third in 49.29 seconds.
- R. G.