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Hubert Lawrence | Watch Jaheel Hyde go

Published:Thursday | May 19, 2016 | 5:00 AM
Jaheel Hyde (left) is the picture of concentration as he races to second place in a seasons’ best 49.16 seconds in the men’s 400m hurdles at Saturday’s Jamaica International Invitational Meet at the National Stadium. Jeffrey Gibson of the Bahamas (centre) won in 48.96, while Bershawn Jackson for the United States (right) was third in 49.29 seconds.

When a Jamaican teenager beats the world number one in a track and field event, it's a big deal.

That's exactly what happened at the Jamaica International Invitational, to little fanfare, in the men's 400 metres hurdles. It was a rite of passage that may herald the dawn of a new era.

It wasn't big news when gifted Jaheel Hyde beat Bershawn Jackson at the Invitational since they both lost to lanky Bahamian Jeffrey Gibson, but it was a big deal.

Hyde's previous races against senior athletes had been tepid. He drifted through a listless effort at the Cayman Invitational last year and left his lane empty at the National Senior Championships later that same season.

His race at the Invitational was quite different. He ran steadily, hurdled with purpose and outrun Jackson, the man rated by the respected US magazine Track and Field News as number one in the 400-metre hurdles for 2015.

Jackson may not be quite the man he was when he won the gold medal at the 2005 World Championships or the bronze at the 2008 Olympics, but his credentials make him a big scalp for the 19-year-old Hyde.

The numbers make good reading, too. Hyde clocked 49.16 seconds at the Invitational. That's the second fastest time he has ever run and number two on the all-time national junior performance list, only to Hyde's best, 49.01 seconds to defend his Boys and Girls' Championships title for Wolmer's Boys' School last year.

It was just his second 400-metre hurdles race of the season.

Even better, he defeated many of his prime rivals for a place on the 2016 Olympic team. Behind him as he trailed World Championship bronze medallist Gibson at the Invitational were two former Jamaican champions, Roxroy Cato and Annsert Whyte, plus the athlete who preceded as Intercollegiate champion, Andre Clarke of G.C. Foster College. The only major contender absent was 2012 Olympic finalist, Leford Green.

Green knows how good Hyde could be. Speaking before last year's Nationals and after Hyde's big Champs win, Green said: "He's a very good athlete and a very good talent and I'm happy for him because that means that Jamaica has growth coming up in the 400 hurdles in the future."

Green is 29, and Cato and Whyte are both 28.

 

THE FUTURE

 

The future belongs to Hyde, 2013 World Youth champion Marvin Williams, and perhaps the 23-year-old Clarke.

Williams broke the 50-second barrier last year and Clarke is approaching it. Together, they could put the veterans of the world under pressure. Hyde first has the Nationals and a unique defence of his World Junior title on his radar.

His combination of speed, balance and hurdling ability gave him victory at the 2014 World Championships in 49.29 seconds. That was a national junior record at the time, but he has now surpassed it twice. The 49-second barrier beckons.

In another life, Hyde might have been the striker called up for Copa America duty as a Reggae Boyz replacement for the injured Darren Mattocks. In this life, he heads into this stretch run to the Senior Nationals as the fastest Jamaican in the 400-metre hurdles.

Everyone is waiting for his future to unfold.

- Hubert Lawrence has been making notes at trackside since 1980.