Praught-Leer, Francis lead Jamaicans indoors
Javon Francis made a winning start to his indoor athletics career in Texas on a weekend where Jamaicans had good performances elsewhere in Texas, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Karlsruhe, Germany. Francis won his section of the 400m at the Texas Tech Open in Lubbock. In the same meet, there was a jump double for former Cornwall College star Odaine Lewis.
However, the biggest Jamaican performance of the weekend came from steeplechaser Aisha Praught-Leer at the Millrose Games in New York. She outraced her training partner, World Champion Emma Coburn, in a super 3,000m encounter. The Jamaican took the lead in the final stages and fought off Coburn, and South African Dominique Scott, to win in 8:41.10 seconds.
Francis clocked 47.23 seconds in a section of the 400 with his Akan Track Club training partner Peter Matthews placing third in 47.57 seconds. It was a venture Francis had been looking to. Speaking a fortnight earlier in Kingston, he said, "It's my first time indoors, so I'm just going to go there and try it.
The former Calabar High School star was the runner-up overall as Rashard Clark had the fastest time of the meet at 46.88 seconds.
The Open saw wins for 2016 Carifta silver medallist Lewis, Olympic hurdler Deuce Carter and two relay teams with Jamaicans aboard. Lewis, who now attends Texas Tech University, won the triple and long jumps. His winning distances were 15.93m and 7.80m. In the long jump, he led a Jamaican 1-2-3, as Jerome Wilson and 2017 World Championship representative Ramone Bailey scored with marks of 7.72 and 7.53m, respectively.
Aside from Praught-Leer's win, 5th- and 6th-place finishes for hurdler supreme Omar McLeod and three-time Olympic 100 finalist Asafa Powell, the Millrose Games saw one other significant Jamaican result. In a 4x800m race where the USA set a world record, Jamaica was third in a national record time of 8:17.75 seconds. Running for Jamaica were Fellan Ferguson, 2016 Olympian Simoya Campbell, Kimara McDonald and Natoya Goule.
Campbell, who won a 2015 World University Games silver while at the University of Technology, did the fastest leg at 2:02.10 seconds.
Ferguson, formerly of the Manning's School and St Hugh's High in Jamaica, had also run for Clemson University on the runner-up 4x400m team at a meet at the University of Kentucky the previous day.