Mon | Dec 11, 2023

Dr Speed puts Zharnel Hughes 10.12 under threat

Published:Thursday | March 16, 2023 | 12:42 AMHubert Lawrence/Gleaner Writer
Kingston College’s Bouwajghie Nkrumie on his way to 10.19 seconds in the heats of the boys’ under-20 100 metres at the Carifta Trials last weekend inside the National Stadium.

THE PERFORMANCES by Kingston College captain Bouwahjgie Nkrumie last weekend at the Carifta Trials point in one direction – an assault on the Class I 100-metre record at the upcoming ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championships (Champs).

Comfortable in the first round at 10.19 seconds, Nkrumie showed why he won the silver at the 2022 World Under-20 Championships with a commanding win in the final, clocked at 10.18.

He faced a headwind fluttering at 0.5 metres per second, with top challenger DeAndre Daley well back at 10.37. In still air, Nkrumah’s time would have been 10.15.

The Champs record – 10.12 seconds by Zharnel Hughes – got a scare in 2019 by Oblique Seville, then at Calabar High School.

“I was like, what?! He almost got it, you know. I was excited for him at the same time,” recalled Hughes, the 2018 European champion, in a 2022 interview.

Another scare is coming, this time from the lad who dashed to a national under-20 record of 10.02 in the sprint-friendly climes of Cali, Colombia, host city of the World Under-20 Championships last year. Hughes will no doubt be watching closely.

“I’d like to see it come down sometime, but I know it’s going to be a challenging one, and I’m looking forward to seeing who will take it down,” said Hughes, who set the record running for Kingston College in 2014.

Many wish to see the first sub-10 clocking in Champs history. However, the 10-second barrier has only been breached on eight occasions before the end of March. With the Champs 100-metre finals set for March 29 inside the National Stadium, the fast-starting Nkrumie, 2022 Carifta gold medallist Daley, and reigning champion Bryan Levell of Edwin Allen High School will really have to speed to join the short list.

In 2022, Ghana’s Benjamin Azamati broke 10 seconds on March 25, while South Africa’s Akani Simbine did it on the 14th in 2020. Simbine, in fact, has three entries on the list, doing it on the 18th of March in 2017 and on the 27th a year earlier, both in Pretoria.

Great Namibian sprinter Frankie Fredericks also achieved the feat, running 9.94 in Sydney in 1999 on the 20th of February. Strangely, only Frederick's, Azamati’s and Fred Kerley’s 9.99 in Coral Gables last year have been achieved outside of the African continent, with weather conditions promoting different training schedules that lend itself to running fast by March. South Africa’s Thando Roto is the only other man on the list, clocking 9.95 on March 18 in 2017.

Five of those times were set in the 1339-metre-high altitude of Pretoria, Africa. By contrast, Kingston is 57 metres above sea level.

Hopefully, the sub-10 focus won’t detract from what will be a stellar Class I 100 race. Daley beat Nkrumie at last year’s Carifta Trials and before that, at Champs when the former finished third and the latter sixth.

At Champs, Nkrumie slipped at the start, but at Carifta, the Herbert Morrison prospect zipped home in 10.23 seconds, with the KC captain 0.05 back.

Sadly, injury at the National Junior Championships cancelled Daley’s ticket to Cali, where Nkrumie first equalled Yohan Blake’s national junior mark of 10.11 in the semis, before hitting 10.02 seconds in the final.

If Levell recovers fully from the niggle that has kept him out of competition recently, this contest will be well worth watching. However, on the evidence of what we all saw at the Trials, Nkrumie will start as a strong favourite.

Hubert Lawrence has made notes at trackside since 1980.