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CARIFTA Games and UTech meet

Jamaica's junior athletes, as expected, have again dominated the rest of the Caribbean to top the CARIFTA Games for yet another year.

The Jamaicans more than doubled their nearest rivals in medals won, 69 to Trinidad and Tobago's 30, as the local coaches continue to turn out athletes capable of performing with distinction on the regional stage.

To some who have been watching Jamaica top the medals standings year after year, it all looks too easy. That is far from the truth, however. Getting athletes to perform well at the Games each year takes a lot of money, planning and coaching by the island's top junior coaches.

Fund raising

A lot of this preparation money comes from the school system where there are elaborate fund-raising schemes, most initiated by old students, to provide equipment, nutrition and travelling expenses for students. In the past I have argued that more should be done to give back to some of these schools which spend vast sums each year to prepare athletes from as far back as September of the previous year.

It is true that schools earn some money from the profit made at Boys' and Girls' Championships but that may be stretched among more than 70 institutions and thus would be just a drop in the bucket.

One way of giving back to the schools would be to reward those who provide athletes for the CARIFTA team. This reward could be in the form of a monetary incentive to the schools for each athlete who is able to earn a place on the CARIFTA team. This money could be used to prepare athletes from each school for the following year's track and field season.

My only real concern about the annual domination at the CARIFTA Games is that quality performances are too few and far apart. In recent times Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake have been outstanding. Bolt has gone on to win silver for Jamaica in the 200m at last year's World Championships in Osaka, Japan.

More of these athletes need to make their marks internationally, however. This year, for example, Jamaica were miles ahead in the medal standings, but the Austin Sealey Award for the meet's top performer went to Barbadian Kierre Beckles with a record 13.43 seconds for gold in the Under-20 girls' 100m hurdles. With so many outstanding athletes Jamaica should be good enough to cop this trophy every year.

In fact it should be of some concern to the local coaches that Jamaica's dominance in the hurdles was shaken this year as they won only one of four titles - Keiron Stewart beating Warren Weir in the Under-20 110m.

While the juniors were performing well in Basseterre, St Kitts there was another meet closer home, the inaugural University of Technology (UTech) Track and Field Classic at the National Stadium.

The meet which attracted college athletes from local institutions, the United States, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Ghana and Nigeria produced some fairly good performances. The best two, to my mind, were world-leading times in the women's 400m and the men's 200m.

Sherone Simpson who dominated women's sprinting in 2006 but was sidelined by injury for much of last year showed, with her 51.25 clocking for 400m on Saturday, that she is getting back to her best and many are now looking forward to future battles between herself and Veronica Campbell, last year's world 100m champion.

In another good run, Nesta Carter, better known as a 100m runner, clocked a personal record 20.38 for 200m, a time well below his previous best of 20.78. He looked quite relaxed and could break the 10 seconds barrier for 100m this year. His personal best for the short sprint is 10.11.|

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March 26, 2008

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