Raymond Graham, Gleaner Writer
THE top middle and long distance athletes from the region will be on show today in Mandeville when Jamaica hosts the North America, Central America, Caribbean Athletics Association (NACAC) Cross Country Championships for the first time.
The Manchester Golf Club in Mandeville will be the venue for the event which has attracted more than 150 athletes from eight countries for the ninth staging of the event.Action gets under way at 2:15 p.m. with the 4K for junior girls.
Canada heads the list of overseas teams and will field the full complement of 24 competitors. Hosts Jamaica will also have a team comprising 24 competitors. The United States, who dominated the meet at the Queen's Park Savannah in Trinidad and Tobago last year, have entered a strong contingent of 20 athletes and are favourites once again to be the top team.
At last year's staging, Jamaica's best performance came in the senior men's 8K event where the country had a third place finish behind winners the United States and Canada. Shawn Pitter had the best individual finish for Jamaica after ending 14th overall. Pitter did not participate in the local trials, which was held last month at the same venue where the meet will be held today and is not expected to be in the team. Trials winner Kirk Brown will spearhead the Jamaica team along with Damion Bent. Both competed at last year's meet. The men's event is slated to go off at 4:30 p.m.
A Jamaican women's team was missing from the senior 6K event last year but the country will be well represented today with the in-form Tanice Barnett leading the way. Barnett, who represented the country several years ago at these championships, has been in impressive form all season in road races and that good form was displayed at the Cross Country Trials where she won easily. Schoolgirl Sherene Wright of Holmwood Technical and Danielle James of Mavis Bank will also be in the Jamaica team. The women's event will begin at 3:45 p.m.
Jamaica will be hoping for better results in both junior divisions. Last year, the female team finished fifth overall when St Elizabeth Technical schoolgirl Aleitha McLaughlin was 14th overall. In the junior boys, Jamaica ended fourth with Bellefield High schoolboy, Orane Wint, 15th
The Canadian team will include Cam Levins who won last year's senior men's 8K, while the American team will include notable cross country and distance athletes Craig Forys, Estevan de la Rosa and Mary Kate Champagne.