When Jhevaughn Mather-son of Kingston College (KC) met Calabar's Dejour Russell over 200 metres last Saturday inside the National Stadium, fans at the Grace Jackson/Queens Invitational were abuzz.
Matherson edged home in 21.49 seconds, 0.01 ahead of the burly Calabar boy. It was a narrow victory for KC in what is expected to be a season-long battle between two brilliant Class Two sprint teams.
For those who wonder how KC standouts Matherson and Nathaniel Bann will fare against Calabar's Tyreke Williams, Christopher Taylor and Russell, they got the first glimpse of an answer. Matherson appeared to ease off near the end, when Russell was rushing forward.
When Matherson and Bann were in Class Three, they beat Wilson and Taylor head-to-head. Matherson set stunning records of 10.85 and 21.87 seconds. Runner-up in the 200, Bann destroyed the 400 metres mark and left it at 49.13 seconds. To polish things off, they led KC to a record-breaking win in the 4x100m at 42.36 seconds.
Last year, Calabar swept two of those three records away. Wilson, who ran 21.66 on Saturday, did the sprint double. Hampered by opposing winds in the 100m, he sparkled in the 200m with a time of 21.72 seconds, into more pesky breezes. Taylor ran 48.80 and 48.72 seconds, enroute to 400m gold, with 100m hurdles winner Russell joining in when Calabar chopped the 4x100m record to 41.84 seconds.
Even though Matherson and Bann are a year older, fans wonder what will happen when they meet the Calabar boys at Champs in March. Matherson is the favourite for the sprint double after his startling 2014 Class Two times of 10.37 and 20.98, but given that Wilson broke Matherson's Class Three 200m record, their clash in Class Two should be worth seeing.
Matherson is favoured to break the 100m and 200m records, but McKenzie's mark, set in 2007, seems especially vulnerable.
Bann, who hasn't raced so far this year, ran 47.24 seconds in 2014, far faster than Taylor's easy run last Saturday of 48.6. When they met in Class Three, Bann beat Taylor 49.13 to 50.68 seconds. Also in the picture is Calabar's Anthony Carpenter, who was third in the Class Three race in 2013 and third behind Bann in Class Two last season.
Interestingly, Russell probably won't run the 200m at Champs, as Wilson and Taylor went one-two in Class Three last year. Class Three 100m hurdles bronze medal winner, Michael Stephens, has also shown good form over the half-lap distance this year.
The outcome of these Class Two clashes will be significant. In stark contrast to 2014, Calabar is far weaker in Class Three. Wilson, Taylor, Russell, 400m runner-up Brandon Heath, Stephens and company scored 116 points in Class Three.
This year, those who replace that Class Three dream team will find points far harder to score. That will make the Class Two sprint clashes even more important. Neither team will want to give up an advantage.
Hubert Lawrence has attended Champs since 1980.