New JC star targets senior team after Penns
WHEN JAMAICA College (JC) takes off for the Penn Relays in Philadelphia next week, the school’s lynchpin will be the breakout high school athlete of the season, Malique Smith-Band. Coached by Neil Harrison, the smooth running sixth-former has improved by leaps and bounds in 2023 in the 200 and the 400 metres.
His personal best times – 20.69 seconds to add the Carifta Games gold medal to his Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships Class One title and 45.74 seconds – put him in position to qualify for Jamaica’s team to the Pan-American Under-20 Championships in August. Smith-Band has other ideas.
“The target is the senior team,” he answered succinctly on April 17.
Then he quietly added, “I think I’m in the shape to be at both. I don’t see why not.”
The 18-year-old has accelerated from a best of 49.02 last season, to benchmarks of 48.98, 47.58, 46.66 and 45.74 with the latter performance, nabbing the silver medal behind Delano Kennedy at Boys and Girls’ Championships.
“To be honest, I don’t think all of it has soaked in as yet,” said Smith-Band.
“Each time I achieve something larger, it’s always like I have another objective, something else to achieve. So it’s like right after Champs, I had to go to the Carifta Games and right after the Carifta Games, by the time I’m supposed to get back to celebrate, and think about it, I have to be thinking about the Penn Relays.”
“I’m very happy. I’m very elated to see the growth, how far I’ve come,” Smith-Band confessed.
Harrison thinks the Manchester High transfer will improve even more.
“I still think he has not yet achieved his full potential in both events, and I think there’s more in the tank for him for both,” the JC head coach calculated.
Kennedy, an Edwin Allen High School senior, won the Class One final in 45.27 seconds. Harrison thought Smith-Band should have been closer.
“The first part of the race was too conservative, and I recall telling him that, ‘if you’re going to be conservative, then you’re going to run out of yard space. It’s 400 metres and not 405’, and when the race was finished, he came to me and said, ‘boy, coach, I should have listened. I thought with my 20-point speed, I could get back, but I ran out of yard space as you said’,” the coach related.
His emergence this season has been a surprise to many. Asked if he foresaw this breakout season, he declared, “Yes. Ask my coach. He told me straight. He said it’s clear. I don’t see you not running 45 and 20-point low. That is the least I expect from you.”
Smith-Band’s older brother Fitzroy Dunkley, 2016 Olympic 4x400 silver medallist, saw this improvement coming too. They did gym workouts together last summer and according to Smith-Band, “I don’t think he’s surprised. I think he’s very excited for me.”
JC have the fastest Penn Relays 4x400 entrance at 3 minutes, 10.40 seconds.