Reigning champions Clarendon College threw down the gauntlet for others to follow, as they opened their ISSA/WATA daCosta Cup title defence with a 5-0 beating of Clarendon neighbours Lennon High at the National Stadium on Saturday. 

The 10-time champions who are heavily favoured to secure their 11th lien, had the perfect start to that pursuit thanks to a brace from captain Malachi Douglas (6th, 42nd), Christopher Hull (17th), Kahiem Dixon (34th) and Jahmelle Ashley (39th).

Lenny Hyde's Chapelton-based Clarendon College, which won its titles in 1977, 1978, 1991, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2014, 2018, 2019 and 2022, could have won by a wider margin, but for a lack of composure in the final third, particularly in the second half, coupled with some good glovework by Clayton Lawrence in goal for Lennon. 

Clarendon College signalled intentions immediately from the kick off, as Christopher Hull sidewinded his way into space for a left-footed effort from a distance that sailed over the crossbar. 

At that point it became clear that it wouldn’t be long before something happened and so it didn’t in the sixth minute. 

An attack started by Ateibo Green with a decent run down the right channel ended with a pass inside the 18-yard box which found Dixon, whose shot on goal was handled by defender Richardo Ramsay. Referee Alexi Perry, immediately pointed to the spot and the 12-yard kick was left for Douglas to calmly convert beyond Lawrence.

They should have doubled the lead a minute later when Douglas orchestrated a tidy build up and played a pass across the face of goal for Dixon but the striker sporting the number 13 jersey, overran the ball and muffed the effort.

Still, such was their dominance that Clarendon College was always expected to make up for it and that they did when Hull picked up the ball inside the arc and drove a left-footer past the hapless Lawrence.

It took them a while to add another, as Lennon tried to play their possession game which delayed Clarendon's pursuit to add to their tally. 

But, it was only a matter of time before the shackles would be broken and a setplay straight from the training ground again got the goalscoring going. 

After Deandre Gallimore was felled almost 25-yards out, Hull played the free kick off to Douglas, who sprayed a pass inside for Green and the latter picked out Dixon for an easy tap in at goalmouth.

Dixon came close to adding another a minute later, but his stinging right-footed shot from a distance was parried by Lawrence diving to his weaker left side.

Clarendon continued to apply consistent pressure and went 4-0 up when Dixon played provider for Ashley, who easily converted from close range.

And before Lennon could catch their breaths to regroup, they took another hit three minutes later, as Dixon through excellent hold up play, again played provider, this time for Douglas, who fired past Lawrence to complete his brace.

Lennon almost pulled one back on the stroke of half-time, but Lydel Rodney, in goal for Clarendon College, did well to keep out Ramsay's long range shot to ensure it remained 5-0 at the break.

Clarendon College picked up where they left off on the resumption and almost extended the lead four minutes in, but Devonti Hodges's well-struck right-footer, was equally well saved by Lawrence.

In the 53rd minute, Lawrence spilled Gallimore's shot from a distance and, as such, was forced to pull off a second save and thwart Dixon, who charged in on the rebound.

From there, Lennon became more organised defensively thereby defying everything Clarendon College threw at them, and that, coupled with the effects of the hot and dry conditions was the highlight of the remainder of the contest.

In other results on Saturday, Frome Technical defeated Merlene Ottey 3-1 while Rusea's beat Cambridge 6-1 in Zone B action.

Jamaica...1

Gray (64th)
 
Honduras...0
 
Demarai Gray ensured Jamaica's senior Reggae Boyz opened their 2023 Concacaf Nations League account on a winning note, as his all-important strike edged Honduras 1-0 in a lukewarm affair that fell way below expectations at the National Stadium on Friday.
 
Gray, who recently completed a move from English Premier League (EPL) outfit Everton to Al-Ettifaq in the Saudi Pro League, fired home his third international goal in the 64th minute to secure all three points for the Reggae Boyz, putting them in pole position to complete a top two finish in Group B of League A.
 
The win has Heimir Hallgrimsson's side on three points, two ahead of Cuba, Haiti, Grenada and Suriname, who all have one point each after playing out stalemates in their respective opening encounters.
 
Cuba and Haiti were goalless in their contest played in the Dominican Republic, while Grenada and Suriname were 1-1 in St George’s.
 
At the National Stadium in Jamaica, the Reggae Boyz started positively and threatened with their first build up, but Dujuan "Whisper" Richards couldn't find space to get a shot off. 
 
Honduras followed up with a quick response, as Luis Palma fired a warning shot from just over 18 yards out, which went straight in the arms of Jahmali Waite, who was given starting duties in place of front-line goalkeeper and captain Andre Blake, out sick.
 
The Jamaicans thought they had the breakthrough in the fifth minute, but Bobby Reid's goal was from an offside position.
 
From there, the tempo of the game dropped with both teams looking scrappy when in possession, the Jamaicans in particular, as their passing and, by extension, movements off the ball was woefully lacking.
 
That disconnect between Jamaica's defence and attack allowed Honduras some semblance of ascendancy and the visitors almost made it count in the 20th when Palma again tried his luck from a distance, but again found Waite in the way as the young goalkeeper took flight to tip over the crossbar. 
 
The Boyz looked their best in the latter stages of the first half and almost found the go-ahead goal in 44th when Richards's stinging left-footer from just outside the 18-yard box came back off the right upright, as they went into the break goalless.
 
It was more of the same on the resumption with the Jamaicans struggling to find cohesion, while Honduras tried to play their game. 
 
The Central Americans should have gone ahead in the 57th when Palma found himself in one-on-one situation with Waite, but his delicate chip shot just went over the crossbar.
 
That missed opportunity later proved costly, as Gray who was playing his first game on home soil, gave the Jamaicans something to celebrate.
 
A tidy build up from the back orchestrated by Ethan Pinnock, found Reid, who played off a one-time pass that sent Gray on his way and the fleet-footed player left his marker before firing past Edrick Menjivar in goal for Honduras.
 
Though they tried, Honduras couldn't find the elusive equaliser, as the Jamaicans held firm defensively for the win.
 
Gray, in a post-game press conference admitted that it wasn't the most polished performance by the team but welcomed the three points. 
 
"It's good to get the winning goal my first time back home. It wasn't the best performance, but we got the three points which was important," he said.
 
Teams: Jamaica -Jahmali Waite, Damion Lowe, Amari'i Bell, Ethan Pinnock, Javain Brown (Tayvon Gray 66th), Leon Bailey, Bobby Reid (Kevon Lambert 77th), Demarai Gray (Renaldo Cephas 82nd), Dujuan Richards (Shemar Nicholson 66th), Joel Latibeaudiere, Kasey Palmer (Daniel Johnson 66th)
 
Subs not used: Coniah Boyce-Clarke, Kevon Lambert, Dishon Bernard, Daniel Johnson, Demario Phillips, Romario Williams, Adrian Mariappa, Renaldo Cephas, Gregory Leigh
 
Booked: Latibeaudiere (68th), Reid (68th), T Gray (90+2)
 
Honduras -Edrick Menjivar, Devron Garcia, Luis Vega (Riky Zapata 65th), Bryan Acosta (Jorge Benguche 77th), Joseph Rosales (Alexander Lopez 89th), Antony Lozano, Maylor Nunez, Andy Najar (65th), Denil Maldonado, Luis Palma, Deybi Flores
 
Subs not used: Juergen Garcia, Marlon Licona, Raul Santos, Jorge Alvarez, David Ruiz-Ochoa, Carlos Pineda, Daniel Carter, Franklin Flores
 
Booked: Acosta (29th), Vega (38th), Maldonado (39th), Rodriguez (73rd), Zapata (74th)
 
Referee: Daniel Quintero (MEX)
Assistant referees: Ibrahim Martinez (MEX); Pablo Hernandez (MEX)
Fourth official: Victor Carcores (MEX)
Match Commissary: Egbert Lacle (ARU)

Jamaica’s senior Reggae Boyz Head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson says his team will not only draw inspiration from senior Reggae Girlz Fifa Women’s World Cup exploits, but more importantly, build on the positives from their own Gold Cup campaign to achieve future success.

Hallgrimsson’s sentiments came as he named a 23-player squad for the upcoming Concacaf Nations League tournament, where they will be hunting qualification for next year’s 48th edition of the prestigious Copa America to be staged in the United States.

The Boyz, who will contest League A of the Nations League, are grouped with Suriname, Haiti, Honduras, Cuba and Grenada.

They are scheduled to open their account on home soil against Honduras on September 8, before tackling Caribbean rivals Haiti, four days later. Both games are scheduled for the National Stadium.

Following those games, Hallgrimsson’s side will play away to Grenada on October 12, before visiting Haiti on October 15.

To get to the Copa America, the Jamaicans are required to finish in the top six, as such, they will need to secure one of two spots from their group to progress to quarter-finals.

Should they do so and go on to win their quarter-finals fixture, the Boyz would automatically secure berth to Copa America, however, if not, then they would take the playoff route for a second shot at qualification.

With that in mind, Hallgrimsson, alluded to the Reggae Girlz, who became the first male or female team from the Caribbean to contest the knockout rounds at a World Cup since Cuba’s feat in 1938.

On the way to that accomplishment, the Girlz held top-ranked France and Brazil to goalless stalemates and also secured a first ever World Cup win with a 1-0 scoreline over Panama.

“A lot of positivity surrounds Jamaica’s football at the moment, the Girlz performance should give us energy for our games and we should try to use that to our benefit to go forward. But before I go forward, I want to look back at the Gold Cup, we were very satisfied with that tournament and we got even more positivity from analyzing those games,” Hallgrimsson said during a press conference on Friday.

“We feel that we are getting stronger as a unit and as a team. We had some good performances from players, some were new faces at the tournament with very little preparation period prior and we know those players will grow into the team and play an even bigger role than they did in the Gold Cup. So lot of positives, if we talk tactically, we know we can improve in areas like our attacking game, as well how we possess the ball,” he added.

On that note, Hallgrimsson only made four changes from that Gold Cup squad with Jonathan Russell, Kaheem Parris, Javain Brown and Kemar Lawrence being replaced by Tayvon Gray, Kasey Palmer, Greg Leigh and former Arnett Gardens standout Renaldo Cephas.

The American-born Gray, 21, who currently represents New York City FC, won the MLS Cup in 2021 and Campeones Cup in 2022. The right-back also represented the United States in multiple games at the youth level.

Aware that Jamaica contested the Copa America in 2015 and 2016, the Icelandic coach is hoping to also achieve the feat during his tenure, as he believes playing at that level will be integral to their preparations for a shot at making the 2026 World Cup.

“As I said we were very pleased with the Gold Cup so there are not much new faces for this camp. Time spent together is hugely important to us, so again qualifying for the Copa America will help us even more in preparation for the World Cup,” Hallgrimsson declared.

“Firstly, we want to win and be number one in Nations League. That is one thing, it is just an extra spice that doing well in this competition will give us a chance to play in the Copa America, an even bigger competition than the Gold Cup.

“In the process of growing as a unit, it is really important that we qualify for competitions like this to keep the growth going. So, we are just preparing ourselves playing in big tournaments like this,” he reasoned.

Moving up the Fifa rankings is another component of added significance for Hallgrimsson, who again made note of the Reggae Girlz rise from 43rd to 37th, as well as his team’s own move from 66th to 58th.

“Fifa ranking means a lot in national team football today. For example, in the Nations League the top four ranked teams United States, Canada, Mexico and Panama, don’t need to play in the group stage, they automatically qualify for the quarter-finals and that is a huge benefit for them.

“So we want to be in that position to not need to play a whole group stage to be able to play for top four. We want to be top four in the ranking and I would say if we get to 40, it would be a huge success for us,” Hallgrimsson noted.

Squad: Goalkeepers –Andre Blake, Jahmali Waite, Conniah Boyce-Clarke

Defenders –Damion Lowe, Tayvon Gray, Ethan Pinnock, Amari’i Bell, Di’Shon Bernard, Dexter Lembikisa, Adrian Mariappa, Greg Leigh

Midfielders –Kasey Palmer, Joel Latibeaudiere, Daniel Johnson, Kevon Lambert, Bobby Reid

Forwards –Leon Bailey, Michail Antonio, Demarai Gray, Dejuan Richards, Cory Burke, Shamar Nicholson, Renaldo Cephas

Natoya Goule-Toppin ran 1:58.89 to claim her ninth Jamaican 800m title on day four of the JAAA/Puma National Senior and Junior Athletics Championships at the National Stadium inn Kingston on Sunday.

The multiple-time Olympic and World Championship finalist comfortably won ahead of 1500m champion, Adelle Tracey, who ran a season’s best 2:01.11. Clemson’s Jessica McLean was third in 2:05.76.

On the men’s side, Rajay Hamilton, who entered the championships as Jamaica’s leader in the event with 1:45.91, got the better of last year’s winner and the national record holder, Navasky Anderson, with a 1:47.28 effort.

Anderson ran 1:47.67 in second while Mississippi State’s Tyrese Reid ran 1:48.45 for third.

 

 

Nickisha Price and Sean Bailey were crowned as Jamaica’s national 400m champions on day four of the JAAA/Puma National Senior and Junior Athletics Championships at the National Stadium in Kingston on Sunday.

Price, an NCAA Champion this year in the 4x400m for the University of Arkansas, produced a personal best 50.21 to claim her maiden national title.

400m hurdles champion, Janieve Russell, continued her excellent form at the championships with a personal best 50.76 for second while Candice McLeod, the defending champion, was third in 51.01.

On the men’s side, Bailey, who entered the championships as Jamaica’s season leader in the event with 44.43, ran slightly slower than that with 44.48 to claim his second national title.

Bailey fought off a very game Antonio Watson, who ran a personal best 44.54 for second while Jevaughn Powell, the defending champion, was third in 45.19.

 

Jaydon Hibbert successfully defended his men’s triple jump title on day four of the JAAA/Puma National Senior and Junior Championships at the National Stadium in Kingston on Sunday.

The 18-year-old Arkansas freshman, who already won the SEC and NCAA Indoor and Outdoor titles this season, produced a best effort of 17.68m, a stadium record, for the win. Jordan Scott was second with a best jump of 16.32m.

Hibbert will enter the Budapest World Championships in August as one of the favorites for gold. He is currently the world leader in the event courtesy of his personal best and world under-20 record 17.87m done to win the SEC outdoor title in May.

 

She often gives of her best each time she touches the runway, and so it came as no surprise that Shanieka Ricketts secured her fifth national triple jump title at the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA)/Puma Senior Championships at the National Stadium on Saturday.

Ricketts, who has been holding consistent form so far this season, topped rivals in the event after cutting the sand at a wind-aided 14.79 metres on her second attempt. The jump which came in a positive 2.6 metres per second wind reading, followed an opening leap of 14.42m which would have also won her the event.

The two-time World Championships silver medallist won ahead of another in form jumper 21-year-old Ackelia Smith of University of Texas, who had a best mark of 14.26m. Imani Oliver of Tracksmith was third at 13.44m.

“It is good to celebrate a national title, this time it’s the fifth national title and also my fifth World Championship, so I am just definitely looking forward to going to there and doing my best as usual,” Ricketts said shortly after the victory.

With her and Smith having already secured the automatic qualifying standard of 14.52m, Ricketts, 31, is anticipating much when they get to the August 19-27 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

Though not yet over the automatic standard, Kimberly Williams is on course to make it three Jamaicans in the event next month, should she maintain her position on ranking points.

 “We will also have three females again in this World Championships so I am happy and excited to see what we will be able to do in Budapest,” Ricketts added.

Edwin Allen’s Theianna-Lee Terrelonge and Javorne Dunkley of St Elizabeth Technical were crowned national Under-20 girls’ and boys’ 100-metre champions, after both staved off tough challenges from rivals on day two of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA)/Puma National Junior Championships at the National Stadium on Friday.

Terrelonge, who was fairly comfortable throughout the rounds, was seemingly reserving her energy for a big performance which came in the form of a new personal best 11.47 seconds in a positive 1.4 metres per second wind speed.

The 15-year-old, whose previous personal best was 11.49s, held off her older Edwin Allen teammate Tonie-Ann Forbes (11.49s) and the fast-finishing St Catherine’s Asharria Ulett, who also bettered her previous personal best of 11.67s, with her 11.55s-clocking for third.

Dunkley, 18, then followed suit with an even more impressive showing. He got out well from lane four and had rivals struggling in his wake at the half-way point, before powering through the line to stop the clock in 10.17s in a positive 1.2 metres per second reading.

That smashed Dunkley’s previous best of 10.59s, as he won ahead of Jeevan Newby (10.26s) of Motorcade Track Club and Camperdown’s Junior Harris (10.32s).

Holy Childhood’s Abigail Wolfe expectedly topped the girls’ Under-18 100m final in comfortable fashion in a 0.9 metres per second tailwind. She covered the distance in 11.76s, ahead of Canelia Hope (11.95s) of Camperdown and Athletico’s Shanoya Douglas (12.05s).

Another St Elizabeth Technical standout Tramaine turned back the challenge of the Wolmer’s Boys pair of Gary Card and Ainsley McGregor, to win the boys’ Under-18 crown.

Todd clocked 10.46s for the win in a positive 1.2 metres reading, as Card and McGregor who both achieved new personal best marks of 10.61s and 10.66s respectively, had to settle for the minor placing.

Earlier, Chennai Jarrett of St Elizabeth Technical topped the girls’ Under-18 400m hurdles event in a time of 1:01.52, ahead of Rhianna Lewis (1:04.51) of Rhodes Hall and Covent of Mercy’s Halyncia Henry (1:05.95).

The Under-20 girls’ event was won by Edwin Allen’s Tonyan Beckford, who continued her superb form with a 58.78s-clocking. T’Kyla Bennett (1:02.26) of Excelsior and Titchfield’s Vanessa Ward (1:04.23) took the minor placing.

Daniel Wright of Excelsior proved too strong for rivals in the boys’ Under-18 400m hurdles, as he went out hard in the early stages and wasn’t for catching. He stopped the clock in 50.82s, ahead of Hebert Morrison’s Trevoy Smith, who clocked a new personal best 50.41s and Deandre Gayle of Jamaica College who also achieved a personal best 52.63s.

Meanwhile, St Jago’s Jaheene Bell won the boys’ Under-20 event in a new personal best 51.30s, with Antonio Forbes (51.54s) of Kingston College and Tyrece Hyman (51.60s) of MVP as the runners up.

In the field, Jamaica College’s Michael-Andre Edwards was the lone competitor to record a jump over seven metres, as he claimed the Under-18 boys’ long jump title with a mark of 7.20m.

The Old Hope Road athlete finished well ahead of Coke High’s Anthony Hall, who registered a jump of 6.83m for second, and Javid Malcolm (6.07m) of Petersfield High.

It was Munro College’s Javontae Smith, who came out on top in the Under-18 boys’ shot put with a throw of 16.63m. Kingston College’s Despiro Wray (16.17m), was not too far off in second, while a mark of 13.28m was enough to clinch the third-place spot for Joseph Salmon of Clarendon College.

Jaeda Robinson and Davine Dickenson, the duo from Immaculate Conception, claimed a one-three finish in the Under-18 girls’ triple jump.

Robinson achieved her best mark in the second-round when she cut the sand at 11.90m for the win, while Dickenson recorded a jump of 11.12m for third. They were separated St Catherine High’s Rohanna Sudlow separated the pair for the runner-up spot with a best mark of 11.73m.

Aided by a strong tail wind, the boys’ Under-20 long jump competitors produced some big leaps, as Royan Walters of Kingston College finished tops with a mark of 7.75m in a positive 3.4 metres per second reading. He bettered the St Jago pair of Demario Prince and Balvin Israel were second and third with mark of 7.62m and 7.32m respectively.

Janieve Russell can now call herself a five-time Jamaican champion after she won a thrilling 400m hurdles final on day two of the JAAA/Puma national Senior and Junior Athletics Championships at the National Stadium on Friday.

Russell, the reigning Commonwealth Games gold medallist, produced a season’s best 53.75 to hold off the fast finishing Andrenette Knight (53.78) and Rushell Clayton (53.81) who finished second and third.

For Knight, this serves as redemption. Last year, she missed out on a national title after falling with 100m to go in the final after leading the whole race.

On the men’s side, Roshawn Clarke produced one of the performances of the Championships to win his maiden national senior crown.

Clarke, still only 19, brought the National Stadium crowd into a frenzy with a brilliant, world junior record-equaling 47.85. Clarke’s time also puts him second on Jamaica’s all-time list for the event behind Winthrop Graham’s 47.60 done in 1993.

Commonwealth Games silver medallist and three-time national champion, Jaheel Hyde, was second in a season’s best 48.45 while Assinie Wilson ran a massive personal best 48.50 for third.

 

 

 

 

 

While claiming his first Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA)/Puma National Senior Championships high jump title is all well and good, Romaine Beckford is more intent on hitting the World Athletic Championships automatic qualifying mark of 2.32 metres, which is one of a few objectives he has set for himself this year.

Though ranked in the top 25 at joint 16th with his personal best mark of 2.27m, achieved at the NCAA finals in Austin, Texas last month, Beckford is by no means satisfied with his current position, as he wants to make certain of his spot in Budapest, Hungary next month.

The 20-year-old made the declaration after topping rivals in the high jump finals on Friday’s second day of action at the National Stadium.

His first-time clearance at 2.23m bettered MVP’s Christoff Bryan, who also cleared 2.23m, on a countback, while dethroned national champion Lushane Wilson (2.15m) of GC Foster College.  

“This is my second year jumping as a senior, so it is really exciting to know to have won my first senior championship on this occasion and I am just excited about the win,” said Beckford, formerly of University of South Florida, who contested the event as an unattached athlete.

“But I am still trying to work on getting the (Automatic World Championships) height and at the same time, I am also trying to get as much points as possible so I can stay in the points ranking,” he added.

To say that it has been a very successfully season for Beckford so far, would be a great understatement, as he completed the double of the NCAA outdoor and indoor championship honours, with this national title, now topping the cards.

Beckford attributes those achievements to the experienced gained last year, particularly at the Commonwealth Games where he finished among the top eight finalists.

 “The biggest thing for me was garnering all that experience last year, jumping with the seniors at the Commonwealth Games as well, I think it kind of boost my confidence to know that I can really get to the top by virtue of not only jumping with some top jumpers, but also finish close to them. So, I am just using that experience and just trying to fulfill my goals,” he shared.

Such was his confidence and form coming into the championships that even the strong winds that swept across the Stadium, couldn’t through Beckford off his rhythm.

“Most of track and field is a mental thing, just as it is physical, so you just have to keep your mind ready at all times for any condition and it is just how you execute on the day, so I just kept my mind steady and adjusted to the conditions,” Beckford noted.

That said, the soft-spoken pointed out that getting to and, by extension, producing a quality performance at the World Championships, marks the first target on his list of ambitions.

“That’s one of my biggest objectives because from Germaine Mason stopped jumping for Jamaica, we haven’t had a high jumper qualify for the Olympic Games. So that’s what I am working on to make sure I am one of those high jumpers that will perform on the biggest stage for Jamaica, so I am trying to pick up the legacy and set a good trend for myself,” Beckford ended.

Holmwood Technical’s Celine Riddle was among the top performers that claimed victory in their respective field events on the first day of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA)/Puma National Junior Championships at the National Stadium on Thursday.

Riddle,18, proved too good for rivals in the Under-20 girls’ triple jump, as she required only three jumps to achieve the winning mark of 12.69m in a 1.2 metres per second wind reading. She was just outside her personal best of 12.96m.

Jade-Ann Dawkins of St Jago was expected to make things interesting, but she struggled to find rhythm before eventually cutting the sand at a best mark of 12.63m in a 0.8 metres per second reading, while Jade-Ann Smith (12.22m) of Excelsior, was third.

Immaculate Conception’s Zoelle Jamel won the girls’ Under-17 javelin throw with a mark of 43.75m, ahead of Alliah Gittens of Edwin Allen, who achieved a best mark of 31.27m in the two-athlete contest.

Tarique Daley of Calabar launched the javelin to 54.72m to win the boys’ Under-17 event, ahead of Edwin Allen’s Dylan Logan (45.61m) and Alex Benjamin (43.41m) of Titchfield High.

The girls’ Under-20 javelin event only attracted two competitors and was won by Sheniela Williams of Edwin Allen. She launched the instrument to 36.14m to better Tamecia Binda of Dinthill Technical, who only mustered 28.36m.

Rohanna Sudlow of St Catherine High topped the girls; Under-18 long jump, as she cut the sand at the winning mark of 6.03m on her second attempt. She finished ahead of the Excelsior High pair of Shelley Ann Taylor (5.63m) and Xavi Harvey (5.24m).

Elsewhere in the field, St Jago’s Abigail Martin finished tops in the girls’ Under-20 discus throw, after achieving a best mark of 53.55m. She won ahead of the Johnson sisters Britannia Johnson (48.88m) and Britannie (43.74m).

Meanwhile, on the track, St Elizabeth Technical’s Javorne Dunkley headlined qualifiers to the semi-finals of the boys’ Under-20 100m, with a comfortable 10.28s-clocking.

Jeevan Newby of Motorcade Track Club was the next best qualifier at 10.39s, while Camperdown’s Junior Harris (10.45s), Orlando Wint (10.59s), also of St Elizabeth Technical and Excelsior’s Damor Miller (10.40s), are also in contention for the national title.

The sprint events were always anticipated to be the highlight of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA)/Puma National Junior and Senior Championships, and they are certainly living up to those expectations, as there were a number of explosive performances, particularly in the men’s 100m on Thursday’s opening day of action at the National Stadium.

Aside from a few sub-10 second and personal best clocking, one of the biggest shockers of the night came when 2011 World Champion Yohan Blake –who many hoped would have rolled back the clock and produce a top performance –false-started and will now have to possibly turn his attention to the 200m, if he is to make the country's team to the World Athletics Championships next month.

The 33-year-old Blake was the defending national champion as he produced a timely sub-10 clocking in victory at last year's championships.

Still, the moderate turn out in the grandstand didn't leave disappointed, as MVP's Kishane Thompson and Kadrian Goldson of GC Foster College, announced themselves in a big way with massive personal best times of 9.91s and 9.94s respectively to lead all qualifiers into the semi-finals. 

Thompson, 22, running in heat one, surprised favourite Ackeem Blake of Titans Track Club, storming to his new lifetime best in a 0.6 metres per second wind reading, as he lowered his previous best of 10.21s set last year. Blake, who was ahead of the pack at one point, seemingly eased up off the accelerator too early and settled for second in a flat 10.00s, with Ryiem Forde of Adidas, taking third in a new personal best 10.01s.

Meanwhile, Goldson, running in heat three, maintained his focus despite two early false starts by Rasheed Foster of Cameron Blazers and Yohan Blake of Titans Track Club.

The 26-year-old Goldson powered his way to his new lifetime best in a 0.7 metres per second reading, to lower his previous best of 10.08s achieved last month. MVP’s Rohan Thompson also had a new personal best 9.98s in second, with Julian Forte (10.10s) of Elite Performance, in third.

Prior to that, another favourite for the national title Oblique Seville, cruised to a flat 10.00s while smiling all the way to the line in a 0.3 metres per second reading. That just about signals that the Glenn Mills Racers Track Club charge is fit and healthy to turn back all challengers at the decisive end of the event on Friday.

MVP’s Ramone Barnswell with a personal best 10.13s, Tyquendo Tracey (10.22s) of Swept Track Club, Nigel Ellis (10.07s) of Elite Performance, Michael Campbell (10.10s) of MVP and Bouwahjgie Nkrumie (10.21s) of Dr. Speed, will also line up in the semi-finals on Friday.

On the women’s side of action, there were no surprises as the inform Shericka Jackson of MVP seems set to retain her title, after easing to 10.99s in a 0.0 wind reading, following what was one of her most efficient starts in recent times. Her MVP teammate Jonielle Smith (11.19s) and Briana Williams (11.19s) of Titans Track Club, were second and third respectively.

It was not so smooth for two-time Olympic Games sprint double champion Elaine Thompson-Herah, who is still working her way back to form, as she had to dig deep to win her heat in 11.12s in a 0.3 metres per second reading. The New Era Track Club representative held off Ashanti Moore (11.15s) of Adidas and the fast-finishing Shockoria Wallace (11.19s) of MVP.

National Under-20 record holder Alana Reid (11.14s) of Nike, Sprintec’s Remona Burchell (11.20s), Natasha Morrison (11.00s) of MVP and another Sprintec representative Shashalee Forbes (11.09s), also safely progressed to the semi-finals.

It is said that the words coaches say to their athletes, and the words athletes say to themselves, greatly influence their performance. If that is anything to go by, then rising sprint star Ackeem Blake is set for another big showing at the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) National Junior and Senior Championships –barring any mishaps.

The four-day Championships which is being used to select Jamaica's senior team to the World Athletics Championships, as well as teams to a few youth events, get is set to start on Thursday at the National Stadium.

Blake, has been the pacesetter in terms of his steady display of form so far this season, having dipped below 10 seconds in four of seven 100-metre races to date, which just about signals his readiness to challenge for a spot on the team to the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, next month.

The 21-year-old, who opened his season with times of 10.05s, 9.93s and 9.99s in April, gradually upped the ante on May 21, when he clocked a wind-aided 9.87s in Bermuda, which may not have counted where achievements are concerned, but would have done his confidence a world of good.

And, so it did. He returned a week later and produced another impressive run, clocking a new personal best 9.89s at the USATF LA Grand Prix, in California. That time bettered his previous best of 9.93s that came at last year's National Championship.

However, his most recent performances at the backend of June, a 10.07s-clocking at the Budapest Quest meet inside the National Stadium, followed by 9.93s at the USATF New York Grand Prix, Blake said fell below his coach's expectations where execution is concerned.

"I never executed those races how my coach wanted, so we just have to go back to the drawing board and put in the work," Blake said in a recent interview during the National Championships launch.

A statement like that speaks volumes of the high standard both Blake and his Titans Track Club coach have set for themselves and, understandably so, as the quality of Jamaica's male sprinting took a nosedive since the retirement of the incomparable Usain Bolt in 2017.

But Blake, a former Merlene Ottey High standout is among those leading the revival having made it to the semi-finals at the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon in his first full season in the senior professional ranks.

With that experience under his belt, there is no limit to what Blake could possibly achieve this year and beyond, provided he stays fit and healthy. 

"I gained a lot of experience last year which was good for me so now I am just using that experience to be the best that I can be. So, I'm good, I am more relaxed and just having fun," Blake declared.

Given the fact that he placed third at last year's National Championship behind 2011 World Champion and the second fastest man alive, Yohan Blake, who is also his training partner, the Titans young star knows that taking the national title won't be easy.

Yohan Blake the reigning national champion, as well as Oblique Seville, who has been a bit low-key with a season's best 9.95 seconds and other top contenders –possibly Julian Forte, Bouwahjgie Nkrumie and DeAndre Daley –are expected to face the starter for Friday's final, and it is anybody's guess who will reign supreme.

Young Blake, being a man of few words, is intent on letting his performance do the talking on the track, which is when his true personality comes to light.

"Coach is just working on my start so I can go out there to have fun and do what I have to do that's it. So, I'm not talking (about expectations) right now, I am just going out there and time will tell," he ended.

Despite dipping below the 45-second barrier for the first time in his career, Antonio Watson remains undecided about which event he will attempt at the upcoming National Trials in his effort to make Jamaica's team to the World Athletics Championships later this year.

In fact, Watson pointed out that the breath-taking performance at the Racers Grand Prix on Saturday, where he stopped the clock in a massive personal best of 44.75s to win the men’s 400 metres ‘B’ final, indicates one of two things –either he will be sticking with the one-lap event or is gradually rounding into form to produce something special in the 200m.

The former Petersfield High standout, whose previous 400m best was 45.78s, has already placed his 200m personal best of 20.52s, clocked almost three years ago, on notice with a season's best of 20.73s achieved in March. 

"Time will tell. I am still young, and I still have a lot to learn in both events, so I am just working to be a better athlete," Watson said in a post-race interview at the National Stadium.

"People always say the one lap is my strong suit but I still have love for the 200m, so I am undecided at the moment. However, this 44.7 could mean one of two things, either I will be sticking to the 400m or just getting better for the 200m," he added.

The 21-year-old who is currently training at Racers Track Club, under the tutelage of decorated coach Glen Mills, says he has been training hard this season to deliver something special at the Racers Grand Prix, so it came as no surprise that a massive lifetime best was the end result. 

He crossed the line ahead of Roshawn Clarke of Swept Track Club, who also clocked a lifetime best of 45.24s, while Assinie Wilson of Titans International Track Club also produced a PB of 45.51s for third.

Watson is one of only three Jamaican males to have dipped below the 45-second barrier so far this season.

Sean Bailey at 44.43s, which is the sixth fastest time so far this year, heads the pack with Zandrion Barnes, who also clocked a big personal best of 44.90s at the Racers Grand Prix, being the other.

"Coach told me that the field is good so I should just do what I have been doing throughout training and the time will come. The execution was properly done in my eyes, I just went out there and did what coach told me to.

"It's a great feeling to know that I am now among the top Jamaican athletes this year, so I just want to keep doing my thing," Watson noted.

Given his renewed mindset and obvious maturity, there is no denying that Watson, a former World Youth 400m champion and Youth Olympic 200m silver medallist, possesses enough ability to make the World Championships cut, regardless of which event he chooses.

"Time has changed and I have grown, I've been working hard, and I have been on a high from the season started, so it’s just about staying motivated as I go forward," he shared.

Still, execution on the day will determine whether or not he makes it to Budapest, Hungary for the August 19-27 World Championships and Watson is very much aware of that.

"National Trials is a part of the plan, so I just have to keep working and come out, match up to the field and do my best on the day. Time will tell (which event I will do or the end result) so I will just keep going one day at a time," Watson ended.

 

200m World Champions Noah Lyles and Shericka Jackson headline several stars expected to participate in the return of the Racers Grand Prix on June 3 at the National Stadium in Kingston.

Lyles broke Michael Johnson's long-standing American Record when he sped to 19.31 to win gold in Oregon last year while Jackson ran 21.45 to her first World title, becoming the fastest woman alive in the process.

The World Athletics Tour-Gold meet is happening for the first time since 2019, with the three-year hiatus being attributed to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is with great enthusiasm that I can announce the return of the Racers Grand Prix,” said Racers Track Club President and Head Coach Glen Mills at the official launch of the meet at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel on Tuesday.

“It is a meet you don’t want to miss. Three-and-a-half hours of pulsating action in 12 events,” added Mills who also serves as director for the meet.

The meet will host over 150 athletes from all over the world including the likes of reigning 100m hurdles World Champion and World Record holder Tobi Amusan of Nigeria, Olympic Champion and 400m World Record holder Wayde Van Niekerk of South Africa and British European 200m Champion Zharnel Hughes to name a few.

The future of Jamaican sprinting will also be on display at the National Stadium including the likes of World Championship finalist Oblique Seville, World Junior Champions Tina Clayton and Kerrica Hill as well as National Under-20 100m Record holder Bouwahjgie Nkrumie.

The field events also promise to be exciting for the fans with the likes of 2019 World Championship gold medallist Tajay Gayle and silver medallists Shanieka Ricketts and Fedrick Dacres set to showcase their skills.

“Over the four years of staging the Grand Prix, the standard and quality has been unquestionable and the meet has had some of the greatest athletes in track and field taking part here in Jamaica,” Mills said.

The 12 events set to be contested are the 100m (Men and Women), 200m (Men), 400m (Men and Women), 400m hurdles (Women), 100m hurdles (Women), 110m hurdles (Men), Triple Jump (Women), High Jump (Women), Long Jump (Men) and Discus (Men).

The meet is scheduled to get underway at 6:30pm Jamaica time (7:30pm ECT).

Tickets go on sale in the first week of May. Prices will be announced at a later date.

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