Jamaica poised for NACAC glory
In 2015, when the Canadian city of Toronto hosted the Pan-American Games, Jamaica won 3 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze medals in track and field. When Toronto opens its doors this week for the North American, Central American and Caribbean Championships, the returns should be even better. Armed with 2015 Pan-Am winners Fedrick Dacres and O'Dayne Richards and a strong women's team, Jamaica could gather as many as 15 medals.
Dacres has shrugged off a knee injury to continue a fine 2018 campaign in the discus. World leader at 69.67 metres, he faces the American pair of Mason Finley, who edged him out of the medals at the 2017 World Championships, and Reggie Jagers, training partner at Kent State University of Jamaica's Commonwealth shot put winner Danielle Thomas-Dodd.
Richards returns to Toronto just after leading fellow Jamaican Ashinia Miller to a shot one-two at the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Colombia.
Now closer to her best form, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is perhaps the 100-metre favourite, despite the presence of Commonwealth champion Michelle-Lee Ahye of Trinidad and Tobago and American Jenna Prandini. That field also includes Jonielle Smith of Jamaica and Ahye's young compatriot Khalifa St Fort, who, like double World Junior champion Briana Williams of Jamaica, is coached by 1997 World 200m champion Ato Boldon.
Smith and St Fort placed first and second at the CAC Games.
Commonwealth runner-up Shericka Jackson squares off against Prandini in the 200m. Jackson has the edge on time - 22.05 to 22.18 seconds.
Stephenie-Ann McPherson is the fastest in the field at 400 metres this year, but Courtney Okolo of the USA, the World Indoor champion, has a faster personal best, 49.71 to 49.92 seconds.
A fine field will face the starter in the women's 800 metres, with improving Natoya Goule of Jamaica and the fast American duo of World bronze winner Ajee Wilson and Raeven Rogers contending for the win as well. All three got quick clockings in the Monaco Diamond League race - a national-record 1 minute 56.15 for Goule, 1.56.45 for Wilson and 1.57.69 for Rogers.
Kemoy Campbell has run 13 minutes 23.73 seconds in the 5000m this season and will be in the mix in Toronto.
Even though injury has eliminated Commonwealth and national champion Ronald Levy, Jamaica sends forth a strong crew of hurdlers in Toronto. Hansle Parchment, 110 metre hurdles medal winner at the Olympics, World Championships and Commonwealth Games, should handle the Americans Devon Allen and World Indoor runner-up Jarrett Eaton, while 2015 World Champion Danielle Williams is in for a catfight in the women's 100-metre variant. Though Williams has set a personal best of 12.48 seconds this season, she may need to improve to beat world record-holder Kendra Harrison and Queen Harrison, who won the Pan-Am gold in Toronto three years ago.
Harrison has run 12.36 this year.
Janieve Russell, Jamaica's Commonwealth champion, is the most consistent entrant in the 400 metre hurdles and could edge the American who succeeded her as World Junior champion in 2014, Shamier Little.
World Cup triple jump queen Shanieka Ricketts faces Tori Franklin, who has a 23 centimetre margin over the Jamaican this year.
Other medals could come from inform 100 metre sprinter Tyquendo Tracey, 400 metre ace Demish Gaye, CAC 400 metre hurdles runner-up Annsert Whyte and Jamaica's teams in the 4x100 and 4x400 metre relays.