Cunningham - From 800m to 400m hurdles
Ricardo Cunningham is making gains in his move from the 800 to the 400 metres hurdles. On Saturday, June 3, he set a personal best of 49.55 seconds in a victory at the National Stadium at the third JAAA All Comers meet of the season. Now 35, Cunningham says 2004 Olympic 400 metre hurdles runner-up Danny McFarlane is one of his role models.
Cunningham shot out of the blocks and disconnected 2013 World Youth champion Marvin Williams. Afterwards, he said, "that was the aim because I've been working on my first 250m in training." Now at the University of Technology, Williams held on to second place with a time of 50.83 seconds.
Cunningham was gratified by the 0.11 second reduction of his personal best. He described 2017 as a rough season.
"I started out this year on my own until I got some technical help from Floyd Quarrie. "I had an interest in the 400 metre hurdles from 2010," he recalled calmly of his days at the University of Technology and the MVP Track Club where maestro Stephen Francis is head coach, "and while at MVP, I wanted to take up the event but probably Mr Francis didn't see me doing as well or probably just wanted me to focus on the 800m." Nevertheless, he was Jamaica Inter-Collegiate champion and national champion and moved his personal best to 1 minute 47.14 seconds.
To pursue his goals in the 400m hurdles, he left the MVP, spent the 2016 season at the Cameron Blazers Club, "and now", he said, "this year I'm freelancing."
Quarrie, sprints and hurdles coach at Immaculate Conception High School and an adviser o a small band of senior athletes, says Cunningham's new personal best puts him in a good spot. "49.5 now, I think, is putting him in good standing leading up into World Trials", analysed the coach.
Between now and the June 22 start date of the four-day National Senior Championships, Quarrie plans to have Cunningham work on the last part of the race. He thinks Cunningham's 800m strength is an asset.
"Having the 800m background that he has", he said, "and I've been working on getting him faster and hurdling better so the plan is to contend with those top athletes breaking the 49 barrier."
Cunningham, the winner at the UTech Classic where he ran 49.98 seconds to beat 2016 Olympic finalist Annsert Whyte, is inspired by McFarlane who also made a late switch to the hurdles.
"He's certainly one of the guys that motivate me and make me know that it's possible," he said.