Tanya Lee | Champs’ golden girls
Last Friday, I listed a number of the outstanding athletes from the Boys’ Athletics Championships. As promised, I’ll compile a list of the most outstanding girls this week.
Ahead of ranking the girls, permit me to correct an error from last week. I listed a top five from Calabar, but erroneously omitted number two. It was the great Daniel England, who won at all levels and dominated every year over the 200 and 400 metres. Based on recollection, England was only bettered at Champs once. It was in 1990, his final year in Class One, when Asafa’s brother, St Jago’s Donovan Powell, beat him over the 200m.
He won the 400m, however. Salute to England on a great Champs run for Calabar!
As promised, let’s have a look at the top names from the Girls’ Athletics Championships, but this time, I’ll start in 1999 in the ‘Super Champs’ era when the Boys’ and Girls’ Champions merged for the first time.
Here are my picks of the top four girls from Champs since 1999.
4. Kevona Davis
The future of Jamaica’s sprinting is in excellent hands when you think of the speed and strength of Edwin Allen’s Kevona Davis.
There aren’t enough superlatives to describe this exceptionally powerful 16-year-old sprinter who stormed home in 22.92 seconds in the 200m semi-finals last year to break Anneisha McLaughlin’s 16-year Class Two record. If you think that was impressive, she followed that up with 22.72 seconds in the final. In the 100m, she smashed her semi-final mark of 11.35, crossing the line in 11.16 seconds. Health permitting, we expect great things from Kevona for years to come.
3. Veronica Campbell-Brown
Jamaica’s most decorated athlete had a stellar Champs career before dominating the senior ranks.
A young Veronica Campbell may have lost to Melaine Walker in 1999, but she was instrumental in Vere Technical reclaiming the Champs title in 2000 and 2001. The star athlete bowed out of Champs in 2001 with victory in both the 100m and 200m to hand Vere Technical a record 20th and 21st title. They now have 22.
2. Melaine Walker
St. Jago’s Melaine Walker is the definition of star power. St. Jago produced some great athletes at Champs for years, but the greatest of them all was easily Melaine Walker. Melaine’s Champs career extended into the new era in 1999, but she was instrumental since 1996 when St Jago High won their first Girls’ Champs title. On that occasion, a young Melaine won the 70m hurdles and was superb over the 4x100m.
Melaine continued her reign as St Jago recorded successive Champs victories in 1997, 1998 and 1999. In 1999, St. Jago got the better of Vere Technical thanks to Melaine’s dominance of Class Two, beating Veronica Campbell in both the 100m and 200m. She also contested and won the 100m hurdles. Melaine set a Champs record of 56.55 seconds in the Class One 400m hurdles in 2001.
She closed her Champs account with 14 gold medals, despite being plagued with injuries, and even competing in a sling at one championship.
Walker’s fighting spirit is irrefutable, ending her Champs career with St. Jago’s fourth and only wins in Girls’ Champs history.
1. Anneisha McLaughlin-Whilby
Anneisha McLaughlin-Whilby ushered in a new era at Champs where the girls donned the most illustrious hairdos and won in ‘stellar fashion’.
A young McLaughlin wasted no time in signalling her intentions for ascendency, as she recorded the first sub-54 seconds clocking in Class Three history in the 400m.
Despite injury, Anneisha won time and again over 100, 200 and 400m, smashing records along the way. In her final season, McLaughlin beat Shelly-Ann Fraser over 100m and went on to win the 200m, the 4x100m and 4x400m relays to hand Holmwood Technical their third straight title.
McLaughlin won all of 19 gold medals and set numerous records across all classes at Champs. She helped to change the script from the usual Vere and St Jago rivalry to Holmwood and Edwin Allen.
Holmwood’s hold on the trophy from 2003 to 2011, and again in 2013, represents the second-longest reign in Champs history, thanks to the inspirational legacy created by McLaughlin. One Love.
Tanya Lee is a Caribbean sports marketer, author, and publicist. Follow her @tanyattlee on Instagram.