Hubert Lawrence | New track was the star at JC
In some ways, the season opening meet at Jamaica College last Saturday was perfect for the times. As you know, 2019 is the first major championships season since the retirement of the incomparable Usain Bolt. Yet, at JC, the mood was buoyant and hopeful. Some of that joy is normal at the JC Invitational. For many, it's like an extension of the festive season and provides a first chance to reunite with colleague track and field fans since the end of the previous campaign. On top of that, hard-core track fans get to watch their favourite sport live again.
This year, that joy got spiked the way white rum spikes sorrel at Christmas with the unveiling of a nicely installed synthetic track. Fans and athletes poured in to watch the first action on the glowing red surface. The meet itself started late and ran late, but it was a day when the track was the star.
Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) president Dr Warren Blake called it the gold standard in comparison to other recently laid tracks in the island. Accordingly, compliments have rained in from friend and foe alike. A proper lighting system will polish things off in time for a grand opening next month.
It arrives just as work has begun on the track at the Stadium East field. Surely, Asheinheim Stadium and the Calabar High School track, installed in 2016, will be pressed into service soon.
With good lighting, both venues could easily host Friday evening meets catering to the needs of the track and field fraternity. It isn't hard to conceive of Friday distance carnivals or hurdles extravaganzas running from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. It's a good look.
Feeling of optimism
That's all ahead. For now, the feeling of optimism is enough. The new track seemed to pull in extra entries and showed that the sport is alive and well in this country. In between meeting and greeting old acquaintances, the best thing I saw came in two boys 800 metres races. First, J'voughn Blake of Jamaica College sped twice around the red surface in one minute 53.8 seconds. His fans promise that he will break the Boys and Girls' Championships Class Two record, which stands at one minute 51.26 seconds to Kimar Farquharson of Calabar.
Fifteen minutes later, Farquharson blazed through his first lap in 51.5 seconds and hung tough to reach home in one minute 51.41 seconds. That's not too dusty for the first week in January and, perhaps, Farquharson can get close to the 32-year-old Class One record of 1.48.84 by Sherwin Burgess of Vere.
Jamaica is renowned for its sprinters and hurdlers. With shot putter O'Dayne Richards leading the way with bronze at the 2015 World Championships, this island is steadily becoming a throws powerhouse, with class performers in the shot and the discus.
The horizontal jumps have moved forward, too.
Perhaps, with Natoya Goule leading the way, Farquharson, Blake, Javauney James, Ackeen Colley, and Rayon Butler and 2015 World Youth finalist Leon 'Rudisha' Clarke can make an impact on the 800m. Someone should remind them that their heritage includes double Olympic silver medallist Arthur Wint, Olympic bronze medallist George Kerr, World Indoor champion Clive Terrelonge, Commonwealth champion Inez Turner, and 2008 Olympic finalist Kenia Sinclair.
Better yet, while this wave of optimism lasts, someone should walk Terrelonge, Turner, Sinclair, and former world junior record holder Neville Myton around to the youngsters as inspiration. A face-to-face meeting with history might flip the switch for youngsters who run longer than one lap.
- Hubert Lawrence has made notes at track side since 1980.