Hubert Lawrence | Turning the 400m corner
In the space of two weeks, Jamaica's prospects in the 400 metres have swollen. The first expansion came from Demish Gaye in Kingston and last week, Nathon Allen and Akeem Bloomfield made the second push forward. All three set sub-45 second personal bests and set fans dreaming of London and the 16th IAAF World Championships.
On May 6, Gaye circled the blue National Stadium track in 44.85 seconds. A week later, on May 13, Allen and Bloomfield clocked 44.52 and 44.81, respectively at a meet in South Carolina. Importantly, Bloomfield's advance put his 2015 Boys and Girls' Championships winning time of 44.93 seconds in the shade.
Add national record-holder Rusheen McDonald, two-time national champion Javon Francis, World semi-finalist Peter Matthews and Jermaine Gonzales, and you get a seven-deep list of active Jamaicans with sub-45 lifetime bests. That doesn't include 45.06 man Fitzroy Dunkley or nippy World Relays anchor Steven Gayle.
It's a list long enough to cause second thoughts among those who want Calabar Dream Team member Chris Taylor to go to London. Instead, after a noticeably compact high-school season, he might rest in anticipation of a bid to win the World Under-20 title next year. The outstanding 17-year-old ran 45.41 seconds to win the Carifta Trials and could also be under 45 in the future.
Dunkley is one to watch. At the recent Penn Relays, he brought Jamaica to victory with a skilfully timed 45.1 closer. At last year's NCAA Outdoor Championships, he clipped off a 44.3 anchor for Louisiana State University.
This year's NCAA is the next big assignment for Allen, Bloomfield and Gayle, who attends the University of Alabama. Allen's former St Jago teammate Sean Bailey ran 45.59 seconds to win the US Junior College Indoor title. Like the others, he gives Jamaica hope for London if they can hold form almost two months past their collegiate exertions.
The only blot on the copybook is the minor injury suffered by relay genius Francis at the IAAF World Relays, who produced a 45.1 anchor in February for Akan Track Club at the Gibson McCook Relays. If Francis regains top form, two things will happen. First, the National Senior Championships men's 400m will join the list of events not to be missed. Second, Jamaica's prospects in the 400m and the 4x400m could be better than ever.
- Hubert Lawrence has made notes at track side since 1980.