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Flashback | Jamaican speed in Eugene

Published:Friday | May 26, 2017 | 12:00 AMHubert Lawrence

The date is May 31, 1975. The place is Eugene, Oregon. Having lost a tight 100 yard dash to top American sprinter Steve Williams, Don Quarrie is a step behind Williams as they emerge from the turn in the 220. Though his rival has run what DQ has described as a beautiful curve, the Jamaican reels him and out leans him for the win.

The time is a new world record 19.9 seconds for both men, with Quarrie enhancing his claim as the world's best.

Quarrie's 1975 world record run was the first notable Jamaican triumph in the Eugene venue that now hosts the American leg of the IAAF Diamond League. It hasn't been the last.

When Eugene hosted the 1988 NCAA Championships, Sharon Powell took the 800 metres for Nebraska University and 21 years after Quarrie's record, Davian Clarke and Neil Gardner added their names to Jamaican track and field history with victory at the 1996 NCAA Championships at the same venue. Running for the University of Miami, Clarke won the 400 metres. Gardner, then at the University of Michigan, reigned supreme in the 400 metre hurdles.

The list of Jamaican winners when the NCAA came to Eugene is long. It also includes fine athletes like 1991 long jump champion Diane Guthrie to winners of more recent vintage. 2013 800 champion Natoya Goule, triple jumper Shanieka Thomas, who also won in 2013; long jump winner Damar Forbes in 2013, and Omar McLeod in the 2015 110 metre hurdles are members of the latter grouping.




In the Diamond League era, female sprinters have brought the biggest cheer for Jamaican fans. In 2010, at the meet well known as the Prefontaine Classic, Veronica Campbell-Brown showed her 100 metre speed with a sizzling 10.78 second rebuff of a field including Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and American powerhouse Carmelita Jeter.

The following year, Steve Mullings blitzed Mike Rodgers and Nesta Carter in 9.80 seconds.

Fraser-Pryce zipped a barely wind-aided 10.71 seconds to edge tall Nigerian Blessing Okagbare in 2013.

The 2015 women's 100m was eye-popping. In the A section, Fraser Pryce held off the Ivory Coast beauty Murielle Ahoure. It was so close that they shared the same time of 10.81 seconds. English Gardner, a star at the University of Oregon, won the B race in 10.84, but shared that time with Jamaican Elaine Thompson.

That was two years ago. Thompson also lost in the 200 metres to Torie Bowie and Daphne Schippers last year. However, given her current form, her first Eugene win should come today.