Hubert Lawrence | Hailing James' genius
When one team wins the 4x100, 4x400 and 4x800m as Calabar High School did at last weekend's Penn Relays, the accomplishment can obscure other quality performances. When the triple comes with two mind-blowing records, it's almost understandable. Almost. If you were able to keep a steady hand on your stopwatch, you would have seen that Jauavney James of St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) deserves a spot on centre stage as well.
Even without Michael Stephens, Calabar was able to clock the number two 4x100m time in Penn Relay history - 39.51 seconds. The team from Red Hills Road sliced more than a second off its own world high school best in the 4x400m with the smashing time of 3:03.79 minutes. That's just 0.02 off the national junior record.
In my view, Calabar was even better in the 4x800m. When Devanna Gayle, Rivaldo Marshall, Kimar Farquharson, and Javontae Williams were done, the Penn Relays record of 7:30.67 minutes lay in tatters. Stunningly, the Calabar boys had run 7:26.09 minutes.
Their fine accomplishment obscured the fastest high school 800m relay run ever seen at Penn.
STETHS took the runner-up spot with a time well below the old record thanks in large part to James. While Calabar captain Christopher Taylor 'merely' matched the best Penn 400 metre leg of 44.8 by Javon Francis in 2013, James moved the corresponding 800m statistic to the Blue Mountains.
When he took the baton, memories arose of his spectacular anchor leg at the 2016 Gibson-McCook Relays. On that day, split clocks caught him at 1:50.6 minutes. His run at Penn last weekend was so much better.
Balancing his effort with the wisdom of a well trained outgoing senior, James clocked 1:48.4 minutes. That's far faster than the previous best of 1:49.1 by Alan Webb, then of South Lakes High School in 2001. He had run 1:50.07 minutes to win the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships (Champs)Class One 800m in March, so we all knew he was good, but this was incandescent.
The James run compares well with the 31-year-old Champs record of 1:48.84 minutes by the late Sherwin Burgess. In fact, it was the supreme relay effort of the entire high school section of the meet.
Thanks to the three-star performance by Calabar, the gem by James passed quietly away. Relay success, after all, rests on the work of the team. Yet, if there were one athlete who scaled the utmost heights at Penn, it was the little genius from STETHS, Jauavney James.
- HUBERT LAWRENCE correctly predicted the winner of every game in the knockout stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.