Russell, McAnnuff set for one-lap clash of the ages
Last year, the marquee track event at the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championships (Champs) was the girls’ Class One 100 metres.
It featured Edwin Allen High star, Tina Clayton, coming back from her 2021 World Under-20 title, and Hydel High’s Brianna Lyston, and they didn’t disappoint.
This year’s marquee match-up will come in the Class One 400 metres and will feature two outgoing seniors, Rickiann Russell of Holmwood Technical and Oneika McAnnuff of Hydel.
Russell is in great shape this season and slashed her personal best to 52.88 seconds at the Queens/Grace Jackson meet on the same January day when McAnnuff cruised to a meet record 54.35 on the grass at the STETHS Invitational. That’s worth 52.9 on a synthetic track.
They’ve been racing against each other since Class Three, and though Russell won at the 2018 Champs over her rival in 53.60 seconds, McAnnuff has had the upper hand since.
The Hydel girl beat Russell for the Class Three title in 2019 and won the silver in Class Two and Class One in 2021 and 2022, respectively, behind Dejanea Oakley with Russell off the podium in those finals.
Oakley left Clarendon College a year early for a US track scholarship.
This year, a sleek, slim Russell has bolstered her reputation as a relay killer with super anchor legs for Holmwood with the best one coming last Saturday at the Gibson McCook Relays, a 50.8-second closer.
For Holmwood head coach Dave Anderson, it confirmed that Russell was back to her best.
“To tell you the truth, I’m really happy and pleased that she’s able to put herself back on that level,” he said.
“I’m expecting her to get another personal best.”
A summit meeting with McAnnuff is in the offing. Both are heading for their last time at Champs, March 28 to April 1.
“I admire McAnnuff. I’ve seen her being humble through the years and performing. I respect her and I know that she also respects Rickiann, so both of them are looking forward to competing against each other,” the Holmwood coach outlined.
McAnnuff set her personal best of 52.38 seconds in last year’s final and at the end of a long day at Gibson McCook, she laboured through a second leg for Hydel’s third-placed 4x400m teams in 52.3. Given her speedy forays into the 100m this season, she was likely to lower her 400 best this year.
The carrot dangling in the distance is the Champs record of 51.13 by Holmwood’s Sonita Sutherland in 2006.
“I’m not sure if you go into Championships targeting records because at the end of the day, the win for me is always more important than actually the record. If the record comes with the win, then that would be a bonus,” Anderson argued.
Russell scored the first win in what is expected to be a season-long battle, clocking a personal best 51.73 seconds to deny McAnnuff at the Central Championships earlier this week.
The final is set for day three Champs on March 30.