Juniors launch hunt for regional glory - Jamaica set to dominate Carifta Games again
Adrian Frater, News Editor
The cream of junior athletics in the Caribbean region will roll into the spotlight this morning at 9:30, when the 40th edition of the three-day LIME-sponsored Carifta Games sprints into action, in what should be an exciting day one at the Montego Bay Sports Complex at Catherine Hall, St James.
"Everything is in place in terms of meet officials and equipment, so we are basically ready for what should be a very good championship," said western Jamaica's top athletics official, Ray Harvey, who is meet director for the Games.
"This event is generating a lot of interest, so I am expecting good spectator support," he added.
While the nearly 800 athletes from the 26 participating countries are harbouring lofty expectations going into the championships, the Jamaicans - buoyed by both home advantage and last year's phenomenal performance in the Cayman Islands - are favourites to dominate yet again.
"Given the fact that we are at home and that we have a very strong team, I am very confident that we will do very well," said St Elizabeth Technical High School Principal, Keith Wellington, who is the head of the Jamaica delegation.
He added: "I am hopeful that this team will win more medals than any other Jamaican team of the past."
The 70-strong Jamaica contingent is made up of 20 Under-20 boys, 19 Under-20 girls, 16 Under-17 boys and 15 Under-17 girls. This includes the likes of Racers Track Club's Kemar Bailey Cole and Bridgeport High School's Jazeel Murphy, Shericka Jackson (Vere), Simoya Campbell (Spaldings), Chris-Ann Gordon (Holmwood), Janieve Russell (Holmwood) and Chanice Porter (Manchester).
Top local track coach Raymond Graham, who has had a hand in several of the championships Jamaica has dominated over the years, is once again expecting Jamaica to rule once more, albeit that he is expecting countries like The Bahamas to give a good account of themselves.
"Jamaica is expected to dominate the event once again despite threats coming from their main rivals," said Graham," With the Penn Relays to be contested three days after the Carifta Games, the athletes are in top form and we could see a host of records tumble as both sexes compete in Under-17 and Under-20 categories."
At last year's meet, at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex in the Cayman Islands, Jamaica won 72 medals - 37 gold, 22 silver
and 13 bronze. Their haul was 40 more medals that second-place Trinidad and Tobago, which amassed 30 medals - 19 gold, 10 silver and 10 bronze.
While many pundits would not give them a chance to do much better than last year's distant second-place finish, Trinidad and Tobago have named a strong 65 member team and with a number of athletes who have previously excelled at this level, there is much enthusiasm in their camp.
Among the athletes expected to do well for T&T are the US-based trio of sprinter Kai Selvon, high jumper Jeanelle Ovid and sprint hurdler Dannielle Davis, as well as the Walcott brothers - Elton and Keshorn.
Elton will be going after a third consecutive gold medal in the triple jump, while Keshon, who won the Under-20 javelin gold medal last year, is expected to repeat.
"I am hopeful that this team will win more medals than any other Jamaican team of the past."