Woolery outlines Champs plan for stars

March 26, 2019

With the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletics Championship set to begin today at the National Stadium, the Petersfield High duo of Shaquena Foote and Antonio Watson are expected to lead their school's charge at the championship.

In an interview with STAR Sports, Machell Woolery, coach of Petersfield's track and field team, confirmed that Foote will contest the 400m hurdles at the championships for the first time along with the 800m and Watson will stick to his usual 200m/400 metres double.

The coach underlined that the decision around Foote's assignments at Champs was taken with her future in mind.

"She (Foote) will be doing the 400 hurdles and the 800m at Champs this year. Watson will contest the 200m and 400m at Champs this year," Woolery said.

More popularly known for her exploits in middle-distance running, Foote, who won the 800m /1500m double at both last year's Champs and at the CARIFTA Games, will not get a chance to lower her 1500m personal best of 4.30.31.

The first year Class One athlete has, however, been impressive over 400m hurdles so far this season, setting a personal best of 58.17 seconds, and will be looking to pick up a medal in her debut season in the event.

When asked the reason behind the decision, Woolery noted that it is in the best interest of the athlete if she is to have a successful career in track and field.

"Future wise, I know the 1500m would be a safe and comfortable event where she would win with ease. However, for Foote, this year is more than Champs, so win, lose or draw, we will take whatever in the 400m hurdles for future championships.

"When you're coaching a junior athlete you should take into consideration life after high school. It can't be just a selfish game of just getting points at Champs. Yes, we would love to get points, enter an athlete in a safe event and count in nine points, but how many athletes (from Jamaica) successfully develop into world-class 1,500m athletes? A young lady with that sort of talent ranging from 400m to 1500m, it's much better for her to run an event where she can have a successful career as a senior, which is probably between the 400m, 400m hurdles and the 800m.

There were concerns of whether 2017 World Under-18 400m champion Watson will be fit for Champs this year, after he got hurt running the 400m hurdles at Western Championship last month at STETHS.

After confirmation that the first year Class One sprinter will contest his pet event, Woolery was asked if the situation at Western Champs influenced his decision.

"No, not really, it didn't influence my decision. I don't want to say that he got injured in the 400m hurdles because if he had run an 800m or 100m and got injured it would be the same thing. Persons would say that is outside of his comfort zone. Unfortunately, he got injured running the race. As a coach, you learn from your mistakes if there is one, not to run a hurdles race on a grass track," Woolery said.

"So far over the past few weeks he is training quite well, injury free. He ran the other day at the G.C. Foster Classics with a 46.8 in the 400m, so far he is looking good," he said.

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