Sprinter say’s he’s ready for all challengers
Last year the name Zharnel Hughes was not widely known until he defeated two of the island's most promising youngsters — Jazeel Murphy and Jevaughn Minzie — at the Carifta Games in the 100m.
The lanky sprinter from Anguilla won in 10.44 seconds to Murphy's 10.48 in March, then returned in August and repeated his dominance over Jamaica's prodigy at the Pan Am Junior Championships, lowering his time 10.31 seconds. Murphy finished fourth in 10.46 seconds.
Hughes, 18, the unknown sprinter, had become the fastest youngster in the region, encompassing the Caribbean and the Americas.
He has become a targeted man after making his seasonal debut, and then easily dispatching another of Jamaica's most promising runners in Jaheel Hyde — the 110m hurdles World Youth Champion — in the 400m last Saturday.
Hughes, drawn in lane one and Hyde in lane six, utilised his 100m speed and covered the field quite comfortably before cruising home in 48.80. Hyde, who did 46.63 at Champs last year, finished second in 49.16 seconds.
"I know everybody is targeting me right now, but if they keep on targeting me, they might end up messing up their events. So, I will just tell them keep focussing on what they have to do and not on me," Hughes told the Jamaica Observer.
"It was a great experience. I just came out here with a race plan today...despite the lane that I got, which was lane one, I got out real hard, just went in at the back stretch and closed up on the guys. I used one of the guys as a target and when he kicked, I just waited for a while then kicked afterwards. Overall the race was great," Hughes explained.
"I am pleased with my performance. I am pleased with the time because I am not a 400m guy, so I am thankful for it," he added.
The talented youngster from Albena Lake-Hodge Comprehensive School in Anguilla in the Leeward Islands, with a population of approximately 14,000, won a scholarship to attend the IAAF's Regional High Performance Training Centre (HPTC) in Kingston.
Hughes, who has been training with the likes of Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Warren Weir at Racers Track Club, will also wear the purple and white jersey of Kingston College (KC) this season.
"At KC it is just amazing man," he said with a smile on his face. "The guys... they gave me some nicknames there, I wonder where they get them. Being at KC is just an enjoyable experience and I am enjoying myself representing the school. So, I am looking forward to the upcoming events."
With no Murphy around, Hughes is expected to renew his battle with Minzie of Bog Walk and the impressive Calabar High pair of Javon Francis and Michael O'Hara, setting the stage for some enticing races.
"I am preparing myself really good. I can tell you that I feel as if I got much stronger this year, so when the time comes to run you will see what happens," said a confident Hughes.