SET TO EXPLODE!
Encouraged by his young charges’ recent performances on the track, legendary track and field coach Glen Mills is backing Antonio Watson and Michael Stephens to put on stellar showings at the Racers Grand Prix at the National Stadium on June 3.
Watson, 21, is a former 2017 World Under-18 400m champion, and who is rounding into form this year which has seen him improving on his personal best 46.17 seconds in 2022 to 45.78 this season.
The former Petersfield high school star, who has run a season’s best time of 20.75 in the 200m this season, has not had the smoothest transition from the high school system into the professional ranks, as his progress has been oftentimes interrupted by injuries.
However Mills, who is the founder of the Racers Track Club, told the Jamaica Observer that he is very happy with the progress that Watson has been making this season and he is, therefore, expecting an exciting performance from at the meet.
“Antonio Watson will be running the 400 metres in section two and he has been doing very well this season,” said Mills. “He ran his second 400 metres this season and he ran 45.78 which is his PB (personal best), and I think he is capable of running much faster,” he added.
Mills also said that he is hoping that the Racers Grand Prix meet will help to lift and boost Watson’s confidence for the remainder of the season.
“I am also hoping that a competition of this nature will help him because he works very hard and he is also a very determined youngster,” said the veteran coach. “We tried to get a race in for last Saturday, but it was poorly put together and so he didn’t get a chance to compete,” Mills stated.
Like Watson, Stephens, who is a former Calabar track star, has also found it very difficult in making the jump from high school into the professional ranks.
The 22-year-old Stephens has a personal best time of 10.12 which he achieved two years ago. But Mills noted that he is encouraged by Stephens’ efforts this year and he is expecting a very solid performance from him in the 100m at the Racers Grand Prix.
“We have young Michael Stephens, who will be running the 100 metres, and he has had a very rough time from high school to the professional ranks, but he is gradually getting into his own,” said Mills.
“I was well-encouraged with his 10.19 seconds on Saturday (last) and I think he will do much better at this meet,” he went on.
Meanwhile, Mills expects the event — like the action on the track and inthe field — to provide top-notch officiating.
The Racers Grand Prix, which is now ranked by World Athletics as a silver category event, should allow high-quality officiating come June 3, and, according to Mills, “we have to maintain the standards set by World Athletics for meets of this nature”.
“They [World Athletics] usually appoint a technical delegate, who will come and supervise what is taking place, to report and write certifications, and so on. So, performances [by the officials] can be recognised as legitimately done under the conditions and the rules set out by World Athletics,” Millis told reporters and editors at the recent Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.
Athletics officiating in Jamaica has faced heavy criticism over the years, with this year’s staging of the Gibson/McCook Relays, the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championships (Champs) and the Velocity Fest 13 meet at the helm of costly mishaps.
At the Gibson/McCook Relays held in February at the National Stadium in Kingston, competitors ran 70 metres instead of the scheduled 60 metres event. As a result, meet organisers ran the women’s prize race as a two-section final.
During the five-day competition at Champs in March, there was some confusion in the first round of the Class 4 Girls’ 70m hurdles after some of the athletes had difficulties negotiating the first hurdle. It was later detected that the barriers were not placed at the proper distance and a decision was taken to rerun the entire event.
Similarly, in the men’s 100 metres Final A at the Velocity 13 meet, rising star Ackeem Blake of Titnas Track Club won the event. But an apparent false start resulted in the timing system’s failure to start. This meant that no time was registered for the event, while the officials opted not to rerun the race.
Against this background, Mills pointed out that he is confident that new technology such as the Roster Athletics System will provide smoother results at the meet.