Five Jamaicans storm to big wins at International track meet
FIVE Jamaicans gave home fans something to cheer about in front of a full house at the National Stadium at Saturday's 13th Jamaica International Invitational meet.
The Stephen Francis-coached Janieve Russell and Elaine Thompson led with big wins, while there were also wins for Kemar Bailey-Cole, Asafa Powell, and Javon Francis.
A finalist in the women's 400 metres hurdles at last year's World Championships in Beijing, Russell was in excellent form, running a well-controlled race to win in a personal best of 54.61 seconds.
Russell's time was second fastest in the world this season. After a disappointing run at the Drakes Relays, Ristananna Tracey bounced back to finish strongly for second in a season's best 55.31. Early race leader Leah Nugent had to settle for third in 56.24.
"Fast time was not on my mind as I ran to instruction of my coach to take it easy. The objective was to finish among the top three, and this is telling me and Jamaica that something special will happen this year," Russell said.
After announcing herself a year ago, Thompson, the World Championships 200m silver medallist, defended her 100m with a big performance, clocking a wind-aided (+2.4ms) 10.71.
English Gardner had to settle for second in 10.85, with third going to Trinidad and Tobago's Michelle Lee-Ahye in 10.98 seconds.
Defending champion Shaunae Miller of The Bahamas, the world leader in the women's 400 metres, was too good for the field as she sprinted away to win the 200m in 22.14.
Anniesha McLaughlin-Whilby was second in 22.70, with the United States' Shalonda Solomon third (22.80).
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who was expected to compete, did not start.
Billed as the female race of the meet, the women's 400 metres did not disappoint.
Last year's second-place finisher, Francena McCorory of the USA, outlasted rivals to win in 50.52.
Former winner Novlene Williams-Mills was second in 50.87, with Stephenie-Ann McPherson in third (51.20).
Competing in her first race at home since winning the world title a year ago in the 100 metres hurdles, Danielle Williams finished a close third in the event in 12.55 behind the USA pair of Brianna Rollins (12.52) and Queen Harrison (12.54).
Jamaica's first of three victories among the men came in the 100m as Kemar Bailey-Cole won a close race in 10.01.
The USA's Mike Rodgers was second in 10.03, with local boy Julian Forte third in 10.06.
Asafa Powell, the defending 100m champion, scored a good win in the 200m. Undoubtedly the most popular athlete on show, Powell, competing in his first 200 metres on local soil in five years, led from start to finish in 20.45.
Beejay Lee of the USA was second in 20.52, the same time done by Rasheed Dwyer.
Francis closed the show in style, winning the 400m in a season's best 44.85, getting the better of Vernon Norwood of the USA (45.00) and Kevin Borlee of Belgium third in 45.17.
Earlier, there was a vintage performance from World Junior 400m hurdles champion Jaheel Hyde, who upstaged his more senior rivals, leading for most of the way before being edged out by The Bahamas' Jeffrey Gibson.
Hyde clocked a season best 49.16 seconds to Gibson's 48.96 seconds. The experienced Bershawn Jackson of the United States was third in 49.29.