Two the hard way - Calabar-KC battle to decide Champs
Audley Boyd, Assistant Editor - Sports
TOP SPRINTERS Zharnell Barnes of Kingston College (KC) and Calabar High's Michael O'Hara are expected to be key combatants as they and their teams vie for individual 100 and 200 metres awards, as well as the overall title, at next week's Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls Athletics Championships.
Both have been running well all season and their form suggest they could run close to the records established by Yohan Blake (10.21 for 100m) while running for St Jago High in 2007; and Usain Bolt (20.25 for 200m) while representing William Knibb in 2003.
In the lead-up to Champs, O'Hara is number one over 100m with a 10.29 clocking at Camperdown Classics, while Hughes did 10.36 at the Western Relays.
NOT ONLY STANDOUTS
However, they are not the only schoolboys with pedigree, as Bog Walk's Jevaughn Minzie logged 10.31 at the Douglas Forrest meet.
For the 200m, the competition gets sharper with the expected inclusion of Javon Francis, also of Calabar.
Hughes, of Anguilla, is number one this season, clocking 20.80 at a Development Meet at the National Stadium the week after the Gibson Relays. O'Hara follows with 21.29, when himself and Francis were joking around as they approached the finish at the Douglas Forrest meet. The latter timed 21.31. Minzie's best so far is 22.08.
O'Hara has a pretty good understanding of his competition.
"We've Kingston College, with Zharnell Hughes and Jevaughn Minzie from Bog Walk; we've some other guys and my teammate (Francis) as well. We're both rivals, but after that, we're friends and brothers," he said.
Hughes lines up as his main rival, but O'Hara is somewhat optimistic of his chances.
"He (Hughes) will be giving me a fight to the finish," he admitted. "But the race is not for those who are fit, but those who can endure. If I'm fit and confident and ready, I'll get the upper hand."
Raymond 'KC' Graham believes Hughes will win the sprint gold medals.
Graham has been to the Olympic Games and World Championships with national senior teams. He is now sports director at the Mico University College and coaches the hurdles and relay teams at KC.
"Not because I'm part of the KC coaching staff, I don't think they can beat Zharnell Hughes. I think he's going to win both the 100m and 200m easily," predicted Graham.
"Twice last year, he beat Jamaica's two best sprinters - Jazheel Murphy and Jevaughn Minzie - at the CAC and Junior PanAm," Graham pointed out. "He's now working out at Racers and has improved leaps and bounds.
"He didn't run at Gibson; he had a slight problem and precautionary measures were taken. He won 20.80 seconds by himself a week later. All he ran was the corner then cruised. And when he ran the 10.36 in MoBay (Western Relays), the person who came second ran 10.88, so he was not tested," Graham observed.
O'Hara missed the recent Carifta Trials with an injury, but says he's catching his stride again.
"It wasn't that serious, even though it was a setback for me. I had to take things slow and come back on track to be fit for the championships," he said. "I started training, and it has been going good so far and, hopefully, next week it will be better.
Besides the sprints and hurdles, O'Hara is expected to anchor the 4x100 relay, as he did at Gibson when his school won. KC, without Hughes, messed up the change on anchor with Calabar leading.
For Champs, the versatile O'Hara says his list of events will be decided by coach Michael Clarke.
"It's the coach's decision. Anything he says, we'll do it."
Calabar won Champs last year, and O'Hara expects them to do well again.
"We have an all-round team; the team looks good so far. We're looking to produce some great times at the championships," he said.
Graham admitted that Calabar are the team to beat.
"Calabar are the favourites," he said. "They won by a large margin last season, and they've been doing well all season, you can't take that from them. But every week KC is digging into that lead. I think the big margin that Calabar had before is whittling down little by little."
Graham warned, however, that favourites do not always cross the line first.
"Calabar are strong in Class Three and Class One. KC are strong in Class Two and Class One. Calabar can win every event in Class Three, they're that strong."
However, in true KC spirit, Graham cautioned: "You don't have to win races to win Champs, the key is to get two persons in each final and score points. KC showed that in 1975."