Hubert Lawrence | Middle-distance turning point
The more we succeed in sprinting, the harder it becomes to remember that Jamaica has three Olympic medals and a World Indoor Champion in the men's 800m. There's just so much evidence that we are a sprint powerhouse that no one would probably care. Happily, a turning point is approaching.
In successive years, Kingston College, Calabar, STETHS and St Jago High School have run faster and faster in the 4x800m relay. This year, at the Gibson-McCook Relays, the Monk Street boys lowered the Jamaican high school record to 7:32.76 seconds. It may be a signal that these school teams are encouraging progress in the middle distances.
Another sign appeared on day two of this week's staging of the ISSA Grace/Kennedy Boys and Girls' Championships (Champs). In the heats of the Boys' Class 2 800m, Kimar Farquharson erased the 20 year old record owned by Olympian Aldwyn Sappleton. Farquharson, a slightly built Calabar boy, cut a full second off Sappleton's mark to leave it at 1:51.26 seconds.
That's not far from the best Class 1 time of the year 1:51.11 seconds.
Farquharson ran alone in a record attempt orchestrated by coach Michael Clarke. As Calabar boys have done before in the heats of the 200 and 400, the strategy attacks the record books when the athlete is rested and when the traditional South-North National breeze is still. The performance had the knowledgeable audience applauding warmly.
Calabar will reasonably expect him to win the final on Champs Saturday and the fans will hope he will go even faster. Whatever he does in his remaining races this week, his record run adds to a growing sense that fast times are slowly coming back to the 800 metres.
Tyrese Reid, the Spot Valley High School runner who ran 1:51.11 to beat Farquharson in the under-18 section of the recent Carifta Trials, Akeen Colley of Ruseas, who beat Reid the following week and the members of those progressive Kingston College, Calabar, STETHS and St Jago High teams represent real hope for the future of the 800m. Amongst them are 2015 World Under-18 finalist Leon 'Rudisha' Clarke and gifted Javauney James.
The last two had done decent stints on the 4x400 relays for St Jago and STETHS respectively.
That's great because the 800m man needs to be more than a plodder. Arthur Wint, who won Olympic silver in 1948 and 1952, and 1960 bronze medal winner George Kerr, both were brilliant at the 400m.
Wint, in fact, was Olympic champion in the 400 in 1948. In addition, Clive Terrelonge readied himself to win the 1995 World Indoor Championship title with many solid runs in the 4x400 relay.
It's probably too much to expect that Farquharson to run his way into a Calabar 4x400 squad that has the like of Christopher Taylor and his 2016 World Under 20 bronze medal teammate Anthony Carpenter.
That's a matter for later. For now, Farquharson and his solo record run present cause for hope. In time, if the slow paced of progress accelerates, his performance may be seen recognised as the moment when Jamaica turned the corner to glory in the two-lap event.
- Hubert Lawrence has been attending Champs since 1980.