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AKEEM BLOOMFIELD. Photo: © 2015, The Gleaner Co. Ltd.
AKEEM BLOOMFIELD. Photo: © 2015, The Gleaner Co. Ltd.

CHAMPS is the Big Show – by HUBERT LAWRENCE

Defending champions, Calabar High School, and Edwin Allen High School won in contrasting style at the March 24 – 28 renewal of Boys’ and Girls’ Championships, respectively. Calabar eked out a narrow win over arch-rival, Kingston College, in the Boys’ section with Edwin Allen claiming Girls’ success as they gathered 321 points, to outlast Hydel (221), St. Jago (219.33) and Holmwood Technical (206).

Edwin Allen clinked points into the piggy bank throughout the five-day meet inside Kingston’s National Stadium but also supplied moments of breathtaking quality. After Shellece Clark had taken a comfortable sprint double in the Class 2 (Age 16 – 17) category, she joined her teammates to zip to a 4x100m time of 44.88 seconds; the first sub-45 run ever in this Class.

The first record of the meet had fallen to Clark’s Class 4 (12 – 13) teammates. These youngsters broke a historic barrier in the 4x100m with the first Class 4 sub-47 run ever at  46.90. With 30,000 fans watching the final, they were even faster in a winning time of 46.63 seconds.

In between those marvelous moments, Edwin Allen crushed any thoughts of rebellion. A key moment came in the Girls’ Class 2 1500m when Ashanni Robb upset the favoured pair of Chrisanni May from Holmwood and Britnie Dixon of Vere. The rout was on after that.

By contrast, the Boys’ Championship was a pitched battle from the start. Calabar faltered first. Its top-rated Class 2 (15 – 16) 4x100m team dropped the baton in qualifying to give Kingston College hope. Yet, anchored by captain Michael O’Hara, Calabar held firm.

O’Hara won the Class 1 (17 – 19) 100m, 200m and 110m hurdles. The latter was a tense match-up with Jaheel Hyde of Wolmer’s Boys. Hyde had set a Jamaican junior 400m hurdles record of 49.01 seconds the previous night but nervously popped off the blocks. Though he wasn’t charged for a false start, the mistake seemed to hold him back when the race got underway. The slower-starting O’Hara caught Hyde at the seventh hurdle and gathered momentum to win. Later, the captain piloted Calabar to a fourth world high-school record in the Class 1 4x100m. With superstar Usain Bolt watching, Edward Clarke, O’Hara, Julanie Walker and Sean Selvin all ran perfectly to win in 39.08 seconds.

Last year, Javon Francis improved Bolt’s 11 year-old Class 1 400m record to 45.00 seconds. Now, graduated from Calabar, Francis wasn’t in line for a long reign as record-holder. Akeem Bloomfield of Kingston College celebrated his injury-driven conversion to the 400m with a high-speed run of 44.93 seconds. The tall 17 year-old needed almost all of his national junior record-run to win as Nathan Allen of St. Jago ran brilliantly for second in 45.30.

Despite Bloomfield’s record-run, Calabar was a fraction too good. Fresh from setting a world Age 15 best for the 400m, Christopher Taylor sparkled in Class 2 (15 – 16) with a 200/400m double in 21.01 and 47.01 seconds respectively.

Calabar was just about safe when the starter called the 4x400m to order. Even so, they finished the job with Taylor on anchor and in a new record time of 3m 06.76s. When the numbers were all in, Calabar had 280.5 points, ahead of Kingston College (265) and Jamaica College (200).

With three individual wins and four gold medals, O’Hara was the star. Matching him on the Girls’ side were Natalliah Whyte of St. Jago, Lisa Buchanan (Holmwood) and Ayesha Champagnie of Saint Andrew Technical. Whyte, the Youth Olympic 200m champion, took a Class 1 sprint-double and closed St. Jago wins in the 4x100m and the 4x400m. Buchanan’s trio of wins came in the Class 1 800m, 1500m and the open 3000m. Champagnie set a record in the shotput and also won the javelin and heptathlon.

While headwinds slowed sprint times, triple-jump records got hammered. Buchanan’s teammate, Tamara Moncrieffe, bounded out 13.63m in the Girls’ event. O’Brien Waysome of Jamaica College posted the first 16m triple-jump in Champs history, at 16.00m exactly. He then lost the record to his team-mate, Clayton Brown, who went four centimetres further. With the help of an aiding wind that was over the allowable limit, Waysome flew to the win with a leap of 16.24m. Moncrieffe and Waysome both won their respective Class 1 long-jumps.

Sprinters Delano Williams, a Turks and Caicos native, and Zharnel Hughes (Anguilla) have given Champs a Caribbean flavour recently. This year, the  spice came from by Calabar’s Lamar Reid. The 13 year-old Caymanian broke the 22 year-old Class 3 high-jump record by clearing 1.99m. With Calabar winning Champs for the fourth year in a row, Reid’s high-jump victory made perfect philosophical sense. After all, the Calabar school motto is ‘The Utmost for the Highest’.

HUBERT LAWRENCE has attended Champs since 1980. 

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