Champs remembered - Experts weigh in on amazing 30 new records
MONTEGO BAY, St James — The 103rd ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls Athletics Championships, known globally as 'Champs', ended on Saturday night in a blaze of glory and the pyrotechnics that followed the final races paled in comparison to the fireworks on the track over the five days of competition.
The record books will show that Calabar High won their 23rd lien on the Mortimer Geddes trophy, retaining the title they won last year with 299 points, while Holmwood Technical won their 10th title in 11 years after a nail-biting, gut-wrenching victory over defending champions Edwin Allen High that was only decided in the final 60 metres of the 4x400m relay.
What has been the top of discussion, however, were the 30 or so records that were broken, most on the final day when the most finals were decided.
Experts are divided on the reasons for the deluge of records, President of the MVP Track Club Bruce James described the numbers of records as "amazing", while statistics guru Charlie Fuller, who has been associated with Champs for over 50 years, said he "had never seen the likes of this".
Long-time IAAF official Ian Forbes opined that the early staging of Champs might have helped, while Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association's general secretary Garth Gayle thinks the climatic conditions during the week could have been a factor.
The number as much as the reason for the records are varied as the final statistic sheets will show 27 records, but a number were broken more than once and by more than one athlete.
Kingston College's Omar McLeod, who set two National Junior Records in the Class One boys 110m hurdles and the 400m hurdles Open, broke the sprint record twice.
He first lowered Kieron Stewart's 2007 record of 13.49 seconds for the 110m in the semi-finals then further lowered it to 13.42 seconds.
The jury is still out on whether the 49.98 seconds he ran in the 400m hurdles final, becoming the first Jamaican junior male to run the event under 50.00 seconds and beating Josef Robertson's 50.24 seconds which was a NJR as well as meet record, was more impressive.
McLeod was not the only double record breaker. Also Kingston College's Jhevaughn Matherson broke both boys Class Three 100m (10.84 seconds) and 200m (21.87 seconds) and St Jago High's Class Four athlete Kimone Shaw broke the 100m (11.75 seconds) and 200m (24.28 seconds) after equalling the long jump records of 5.52m held by Opal James of STETHS set in 2008.
James said he too had never experienced anything like what he saw over the weekend and dismissed any mechanical malfunction.
"We had records being broken in the straightaway races, the races run around curves, in the jumps and in the throws, so we can't say the timing system was faulty," he pointed out.
James, who claims he was doing his own analysis of what occurred, also added that the spread of records was across both genders and several schools on different days.
What this means for the national programme, he noted, was all positives. He said at the junior level Jamaica is dong "very well", but cautioned not to start counting Olympic medals yet. "It doesn't always translate to the senior level so we must wait and see."
Gayle, who has been attending Champs since 1978, said the relatively new track as well as the almost all day long rain that fell on Friday could have contributed to the falling times. "The climatic conditions were just right... when you have cleaner, clear air, the cardio system works better," he opined.
Gayle also explained that for most of the day the wind speed was below the allowable two metres per seconds limit, which is not always the case and said the hot humid breeze coming off the ocean to the south of the stadium facility was not much of a factor this year.
The 'Champs phenomena' is also a big factor, Gayle said. "Champs is a creature of its own making. The athletes tend to lift their own standard and perform well above their limits as the adrenaline pumps through their system in front of the big crowd," he argued.
Fuller also agreed with the earlier Champs dates helping the performances, describing McLeod's and Shaw's performances as "absolutely incredible, fantastic".