Tue | Apr 24, 2018

The best race you didn't see at Gibson

Published:Thursday | February 28, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Hubert Lawrence
Shericka Jackson eases at the end of the high school girls 4x400 metres final at last Saturday's Gibson Relays at the National Stadium. Vere clocked 3:33.34 to win ahead of Edwin Allen High, 3:36.67, and Holmwood Technical, 3:43.05. - Ian Allen/Photographer
Delano Williams (left) piloting Munro College to victory in the Gibson Relays high school boys 4x400 metres at the National Stadium last Saturday. Munro clocked 3:11.45 to win ahead of Manchester High, 3:12.34, and Wolmer's Boys, 3:15.82. - Ian Allen/Photographer

Let me guess. You got to the National Stadium in time for the start of the finals at last Saturday's Gibson Relays. If so, you saw some fine track and field action.

Yohan Blake appeared twice in the finals. First, the double Olympic silver medal winner stepped around the curve with aplomb in the men's 4x100. His speed glued a run of 38.50 seconds together for the Racers Lions.

High jump prodigy Christophe Bryan made a last attempt clearance of a season's best 2.17 metres. The young Wolmerian isn't far off his lifetime best of 2.20.

Little-known Green Island High announced its high speed sprint programme to the nation with a neat Class One double. First, the Odail Todd-anchored squad took the 4x100 title in 40.18 seconds. Their Western Relay conquerors Kingston College (KC) weren't at full strength, but the Hanover team did take over top spot of the 2013 performance list. With Todd on the second leg, Green Island was almost equally impressive in the 4x200.

Season-leading times

In like manner, almost every relay event saw new season-leading times being set.

Among those individuals standing out were Marleena Eubanks and Delano Williams. Eubanks zoomed legs in both the 4x800 and the 4x400. Her run of two minutes 05.9 seconds turned the contest in Edwin Allen's favour in the longer event. Over the shorter distance, she showed a touch of speed at 52.9.

Blake came back with a 45.1 anchor for the Lions in the men's 4x400, just before Williams hit top gear. Munro trailed Manchester High by 40 metres when he got the baton for the last leg. Undaunted, the World Junior 200 champion worked hard, made up the distance and went away for the win.

How fast did he go? 44.8.

Perhaps, the Relays will introduce a crew of stopwatch timers dedicated to recording split times. The fans could be told of fast relay split times by the announcers. This is pretty common elsewhere in the world and is a measure we should adopt here.

Regular visitors to the Penn Relays get used to the service of the split crew and the information adds value gleaned by spectators, coaches, track nuts and scribes alike.

It wouldn't only help relay events. Think of Kemoy Campbell, who rewrote the Champs record books a few years ago. It would have been helpful for the PA announcer to be telling fans what splits Kemoy needed to run to set new standards in the 1500 and 5000. In fact, it might even have helped to dissolve our deep-seated disinterest in distance races.

Had this split crew been in place at the Gibson Relays, fans would have got the numbers on Williams, Blake, Eubanks, Stephanie McPherson and Shericka Jackson immediately. McPherson anchored UTech with a smooth run, timed in 50.8. Jackson did exactly the same for Vere, with the additional benefit of helping to lower Vere's own Jamaican high school record from three minutes, 33.17 seconds, to 3.32.19. The old mark was set by Vere at Champs in 2011.

If you came to the stadium in time for the finals, you saw all that. Those who came early had an extra bonus. Superstar Usain Bolt came out to run an early morning heat of the men's 4x400 and ran a 45.7 leg for the Lions. It was only 10.06 a.m., but the tall man manfully completed what amounted to a training run.

The real bonus came one race later from London Olympian Rusheen McDonald. Running for MVP, the second-year UTech student hurried to put his team in a qualifying position and stepped to the fastest 4x400 split of the day - 44.7. It may well have been the best individual performance of the entire meet.

That came in an exciting preliminary men's 4x400 race narrowly won by G.C. Foster College. In the final, MVP second leg Markino Buckley fell and that marooned McDonald.

Sometimes it pays to be early. Next year, don't make the same mistake. You might miss something really, really good.

Hubert Lawrence is the author of 'Champs 100: A Century of Jamaican High School Athletics 1910-2010'.