Head coach praises talented Carifta athletes for record medal haul
NEIL Harrison, the head coach of Jamaica's record-breaking team to the 43rd Carifta Games, said he was not surprised by the 88-medal haul during the Championships staged at Stade Municipal Pierre Aliker in Martinique.
The 84-member Jamaica team — the largest contingent the country has ever sent — which left the island last Thursday, returned yesterday after winning 42 gold, 34 silver and 12 bronze medals.
"Once you are a part of any achievement it's always a wonderful feeling. However, that was anticipated because I did the research and I realised what the record was and looking at the performance at the Boys' & Girls' Athletics Championships it was pretty much in sight," Harrison told the Jamaica Observer.
The medal count beat the 84 that the Jamaicans took from the Championships in Bermuda in 2004. Jamaica were heading the medal table for the 30th straight time and 37th overall since the first staging in 1972.
The head coach said that the all-round strength of the contingent was evident ahead of the Games and noted the significance of the Jamaicans regaining their dominance of the sprint events in both genders and across the age-group categories.
"It was a strong contingent across the board. Last year, the Bahamas pretty much dominated the sprints and after seeing the performances at [this year's] Champs that was a yardstick telling us that once the team was healthy we would have achieved a lot," he said.
"Apart from the talented group that we have, I think the coaching staff played a tremendous role in the achievement. I admire the fact that we were not only coaches, but also teachers in terms of motivation, in terms of keeping the kids together and keeping them focused. There were no personality conflicts and it made life easier for me as head coach.
"The support from the athletes was tremendous. The coaching staff laid down the objectives and they responded quite well.
"I would like to credit the JAAA (Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association) for doing everything possible to make our stay a comfortable one," Harrison added.
Aside from the outstanding sprint displays, there were telling performances in the hurdles, the middle and long distance and the field events.
Janeek Brown and Sidney Marshall captured gold and silver for Jamaica in the Under-18 girls' 100m hurdles in 13.48 and 13.62 seconds, respectively, with Trinidadian Jeminise Parris third in 13.79 seconds.
The irrepressible Jaheel Hyde, the IAAF World Youth 110m hurdles champion, won three gold medals, including running a personal best 13.10 seconds in the Under-18 boys' sprint hurdles final.
Jamaica dominated the 800m, winning three of the four races on track. Ryan Butler and Ryan Dunkley were first and second in the Under-18 boys' 800m. Butler won in 1:55.61 minutes and Dunkley did 1:56.03.
Kevon Robinson and Raja Hamilton also held the top two spots in the Under-20 category in 1:51.02 minutes and 1:51.05 minutes, respectively. They beat Calabar High's Jorel Bellafonte, representing the Cayman Islands, who finished fourth in 1:52.42 minutes.
Monique McPherson (2:09.85) and Sasha-Gay White (2:13.13) were first and second, respectively, in the girls' Under-20 800m.
Michael O'Hara copped the boys' Under-20 200m title in 20.50, ahead of his Jamaican teammate Jevaughn Minzie, who ran 20.56. Levi Cadogan of Barbados was third in 20.64 seconds.
Jamaica also dominated the four 4x400m relays winning three and placing second in the other.
Harrison, the coach of Munro College, had special praise for Rusea's High's precocious high jumper Lamara Destin, who leapt to 1.68 metres to take gold in the Under-18 category.
"The performances are so widespread and so outstanding — 42 gold — it makes it difficult. But I would want to single young Destin because of her age. She is 14 years of age and to win the Under-18 high jump gold is a great achievement.
"She is like the baby of the team, so I really raise my hat to her in that regard," he said.
He conceded that there were challenges, particularly, with the rainy conditions.
"There was some misfortune. The weather conditions weren't ideal and it was raining heavily in spurts, so it would have affected them in terms of warming up. Some athletes had muscular contractions and in some cases where they won perhaps it prevented them from going faster."
Some were left surprised at the result in the Under-20 girls' 100m hurdles final as Jamaica's World Youth champion Yanique Thompson finished fourth behind the Barbadian winner Akela Jones.
Jamaican Peta-Gay Williams was second, while Guadeloupe's Chrystie Lange finished third.
Harrison said he felt that Thompson entered the event "not fully fit".