Holmwood's Russell targets long-standing 400m record; but Hydel's McAnnuff, Baker stand in the way
Holmwood Technical's Rickiann Russell cruise towards the line with Hydel's Alliah Baker (left) for company during the girls' Class one 400m semi-finals at the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls' Athletics Championship at the National Stadium on Wednesday.(Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Getting to Sonita Sutherland's 17-year-old girls' Class One 400-metre record seems improbable, but for Holmwood Technical's Rickiann Russell, not impossible.

After placing sixth in the event at last year's Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA)/GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls' Athletics Championship, Russell, with a renewed drive and desire to be the best, has established herself as the top high school quarter-miler this season with an eye on the 51.13 seconds set by the former Holmwood stalwart in 2006.

And she believes there is no better time to have a go at the mark than in this her final year at the five-day spectacle at Kingston's National Stadium.

BAKER...I am going to have to prepare myself mentally for that, but the aim is to get into the top two (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Russell, whose personal best stands 51.74s, once again displayed her supreme form when she cruised to 53.78s to book her spot in today's final, the day's penultimate event scheduled for 9:20 pm.

"I felt relaxed, I didn't have to run hard here and my coach told me to just go out there and make the finals, which I did," Russell said after her semi-final performance yesterday.

"I feel confident going into the final because I have been doing well all season, so hopefully I can lower my personal best, and I am also looking for the record. I know it will be tough but I think it is possible," the World Under-20 silver medallist added.

The 19-year-old Russell, who has been a staple in Holmwood Technical's 4x400m relay teams for the past four years, will be joined by teammate Annalice Brady (54.49s) in seeking maximum points for the Christiana-based school.

Hydel's Captain Oneika McAnnuff pushes from the blocks during her girls' Class one 400m semi-final. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Hydel's pair of last year's runner-up Oneika McAnnuff — who was fastest through to the final with 52.27s — and Alliah Baker (54.62s) will make things interesting along with the Edwin Allen pair of Kacian Powell (53.63s) and Tonyan Beckford (53.21s).

Jamara Patterson (55.36s) of St Catherine completes the line-up for what should be an enthralling final.

While Russell and McAnnuff, who is still smarting from last year's defeat, are favoured for the top two spots, Baker, last year's Class Two bronze medallist, though new to the big class, is hoping to separate the two.

"I am feeling more confident in myself now after that run, last night [Tuesday night] in the 400m hurdles I was just trying to run comfortable, I wasn't running as fast as I should because I wanted to make sure I have enough energy for the finals on Friday and the 400m finals tomorrow [today].

RUSSELL...hopefully, I can lower my personal best, and I am also looking for the record (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

"I believe I can win the 400m hurdles, but for the 400m I believe I am going to have to prepare myself mentally for that, but the aim is to get into the top two," Baker told the Jamaica Observer.

The girls' Class Two event should also serve up a treat, as the usual suspects Jody-Ann Daley (53.66s) of Hydel, Sabrina Dockery (54.13s) of Lacovia and Rosalee Gallimore (54.53s) of Holmwood Technical all booked their lane for the showpiece event.

Meanwhile, Nastassia Fletcher of Hydel expectedly led the finalist for the girls' Class three 400m finals, with main rivals Breana Brown (55.45s) of Excelsior and Muschett's Shanoya Douglas (55.75s) also there with her.

BY SHERDON COWAN Staff reporter cowans@jamaicaobserver.com

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