'Athletes rose to the occasion,' says manager
THE coaches and management of the Jamaican junior track and field team that extended the island's stranglehold on the Carifta Games after a 29th straight win, have reacted with delight.
Team manager Jeffrey Gordon hailed the athletes for "rising to the occasion", while assistant coach Reynaldo Walcott said while the team failed to get to the 80-medal mark — winning 69 medals at the event that ended on Monday night at the Thomas A Robinson Stadium in Nassau, The Bahamas — the coaching staff was "elated".
The official count showed Jamaica topping the table with 69 medals — 29 gold, 25 silver and 15 bronze — well ahead of The Bahamas, who won 31 medals, including eight gold medals, 10 silver and 13 bronze, while Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados both finished with 20 medals each.
The 69-member team, however, had won 75 medals, but two competition rules resulted in some not being credited. Neither the gold nor silver medals won in the boys' pole vault open was counted, as the rules state that any event with less than three athletes would be classed as an 'exhibition', while another rule stated "events which may be excluded from this count did not meet the Carifta standard of having a minimum of five athletes from three different countries".
Walcott also said eight fourth-place finishes on Monday's final day of the three-day championships also helped to restrict the medal count.
"We did our research and going into the championships we thought we could get close to 80 medals," he said.
Four athletes won two individual gold medals each — Nattaliah Whyte in the Under-17 girls' 100m/200m; Martin Manley in the boys' Under-17 200m/400m; Jauavney James in the Under-17 boys' 1,500m/3,000m and Gleneve Grange in the pentathlon open and Under-20 girls' discus throw.
Walcott, however, singled out Under-20 girls' 200m silver medallist Shericka Jackson's brilliant 22.84 seconds behind The Bahamas' Shaunae Miller's meet record 22.77 seconds.
The time which was just shy of Simone Facey's national junior record of 22.71 seconds, got high marks from Walcott, while Javon Francis, Jevaughn Minzie and Fedric Dacres also came in for mention.
Francis anchored the Under-20 boys' 4x400m team to a meet record three minute 5.68 seconds after hitting a hurdle and finishing last in the 400m hurdles a day earlier.
Additionally, Walcott said Francis, who was beaten in the 400m final by Trinidad's Machel Cedeno, took on the Trinidadian after taking the baton in third place and held him off to lead Jamaica to the gold in the final event of the championships.
"It was not an easy meet for Francis or Minzie, but both came out with flying colours," the coach said. Minzie, who was second in the Under-20 boys' 200m in a wind-aided 20.64 seconds (3.4m/s wind) after replacing Michael O'Hara, picked up gold medals in both relays.
Gordon told the Jamaica Observer that despite some early sebacks, including top Under-20 athlete O'Hara being diagnosed with chicken pox, the young athletes rose to the occasion.
"These kids were fantastic," he said. "They kept their eyes on the prize and rose to the occasion."
Gordon said the number of personal bests achieved "especially in the throwing events by athletes from the non-traditional track schools, showed growth and development".
The team manager pointed out that the team consisted of athletes from 30 different schools, including 17 schools that had just one athlete and with a spread from Petersfield High in the western end of the island to St Mary High in the east.