Fri | Sep 22, 2023

New wave of 400m runners

Sean Bailey clocks 44.43 seconds for the distance at Los Angeles meet

Published:Monday | May 29, 2023 | 12:49 AMHubert Lawrence/Gleaner Writer
Sean Bailey
Sean Bailey

Jamaica’s stocks in the men’s 400 metres were on the rise in 2017, 2018 and 2019, but have dipped since then. However, there is cause for optimism. Leading the new wave is Sean Bailey who has just run 44.43 seconds for the distance.

Racing in Los Angeles last Saturday the 2021 Olympian tracked past brilliant Grenadian Kirani James to lower his personal best from a time of 44.70 on April 29. Now 25, the St Jago High School and University of Texas El Paso graduate now stands at number five on the all-time Jamaican performance list. James, history’s only Olympic 400-m gold, silver and bronze medallist, finished second in 44.50.

Notably, Bailey entered this season with a lifetime benchmark set at 45.04 in a victory at the 2021 Jamaican Championships.

The encouragement began at the ISSA-GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championships (Champs) in the Class One final. The 2022 World Under-20 finalist Delano Kennedy of Edwin Allen High School zoomed to a personal best of 45.27 seconds, with Malique Smith-Band of Jamaica College and Jasauna Dennis of St Elizabeth Technical High taking the silver and bronze medals with times of 45.74 and 45.87 seconds, respectively.

Smith-Band’s coach Neil Harrison tutored Akeem Bloomfield to the record, 44.93 seconds, when he was at Kingston College. Asked about the milestone, Harrison responded, “The first thing is I’m happy to be a part of that and it seems to be a natural part of me now in terms of coaching quarter-milers to compete at Champs and running 45.”

Of the 15 runs under 46 seconds at Champs, Harrison has coached five of those landmark times.

2015 - 44.93 Akeem Bloomfield (KC)

2018 - 45.62 Dashawn Morris (KC); semis 45.09 Morris

2021 - 45.75 Javier Brown (JC)

2023 - 45.74 Malique Smith-Band (JC)

“I enjoy coaching the event,” he underlined, “Somehow it comes natural to me, and I just hope I continue. I love to hone and to develop the talent and I’ll just continue to do that,” he resolved.

Jamaica had two men in the 2017 World Championships final, Nathon Allen and Demish Gaye, three in the 2018 Commonwealth Games final and Gaye and Bloomfield took fourth and eighth in the 2019 World Championships final. Working together, Bloomfield, Allen, Terry Thomas and Gaye then placed second in the 4x400-m with the second- fastest Jamaica time ever, 2 minutes 57.90 seconds.

Christopher Taylor was the only Jamaican in the 2021 Olympic final and again in the 2022 World Championship final. However, with this new wave on the way up, 21-year-old Intercollegiate champion Zandrion Barnes at 45.41 already this season, and Bailey operating at a new level, the good times seem likely to return.