Hubert Lawrence | Slow trip down memory lane
Recent news of an honour for venerable Excelsior High School and San Jose State University superhero Neville Myton will send veteran observers on a slow trip down memory lane.
Fifty-four years ago, Myton cemented his claim for a spot on the 1964 Olympic team with a nippy world junior record run of 1 minutes 47.2 seconds for 880 yards.
Fast-forward to 2016.
Converted to a metric equivalent of 1 minute 46.5 seconds, that mark has Myton, once labelled 'the indomitable running man', still on the all-time Jamaican 800m top 10 performance list all these years later.
It's remarkable that, in those days before synthetic tracks, a schoolboy could run that fast. Myton was remarkable. He dominated the 880 and the mile at Boys' Championships and is still the only Jamaican to win the Penn Relays high-school mile.
His perch, by my count, as the 10th-fastest Jamaican 800m man of all time isn't in danger. No Jamaican has broken 1 minute and 47 seconds since Aldwyn Sappleton did in 2009. Jowayne Hibbert and Ricardo Cunningham have come reasonably close in recent seasons and Hibbert, a 1.47.12 man, has the potential to go even faster. Still, Myton's time is looking to have secure tenancy in the top 10 for a while to come.
Seymour Newman's national record of 1 minute 45.21 seconds is looking as safe as houses. Talk of overseas coaching consultancies has faded, but my guess is that coaching isn't the core problem. I reckon our love of sprinting has drawn coaching and athletic talent away from the 800m, where Arthur Wint and George Kerr, between them, won three Olympic medals.
Our best man in the event since those days was 1995 world indoor champion Clive Terrelonge. He stands behind Newman and 1968 and 1969 NCAA champion Byron Dyce on the all-time list at 1 minute 45.47 seconds.
The success of Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Asafa Powell, et al, has made the 100m so attractive that it has become hard to resist. Anyone with any basic speed dreams of 9.58.
HISTORY IS INSTRUCTIVE
Add to that the resistance of our 400m men to moving up when their prime one-lap days are over, and Newman could be national record holder for years to come.
History is instructive. Wint, Kerr and Newman were dynamite over 400m, with Sir Arthur winning gold in the 400m at the 1948 Olympics and Kerr taking the Pan-American Games title in 1959. Terrelonge, Mario Vernon-Watson, Alex Morgan, who are also in the top 10, and Myton all were solid 4x400 men.
Our coaches are brilliant and, if any group can help Jamaica spread its forces into 'new' athletic disciplines, they can. My guess is that they will soon start to usher some of the 400-metre men out to the two-lapper.
To my eye, there are two tall men whose spindly frames and long strides suggest they could travel well over 800m. They are 2015 intercollegiate 400m champion Jonia McDonald and former JC high jumper Fitzroy Dunkley.
Let me be clear. McDonald and Dunkley both have more to give at 400m. Dunkley, now just out of collegiate eligibility at Louisiana State University, is a recent convert to sprinting and has only been running the 400m for three seasons. McDonald could be one of those gems MVP genius Stephen Francis unearths and moves from zero to hero.
Even so, I hope they keep their options open and at some point, carry their speed to an event that could fit them perfectly.
- Hubert Lawrence has made notes at track side since 1980.