IF you ask Kemarrio Bygrave what his greatest asset on the track is, he would readily tell you it's the fact that he thrives under pressure.
That sense of accomplishment after being pushed to the limit is what fuels the Jamaica College middle distance runner's ambitions, and he demonstrated that much at the Carifta trials recently.
Bygrave deliberately sat off the pace and later outsprinted rivals to win the Under-20 800m and 1,500m events, both in personal best times of 1:50.20 and 4:02.42, respectively.
By all indications the 17-year-old was merely testing his readiness for the March 28 to April 1 Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA)/GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls' Athletics Championships at the National Stadium.
"Prior to the start of the season coach and I discussed my weakness from last season and charted a course on how to strengthen those weaknesses. What you're seeing now is as a result of that and so I'm looking forward to a season full of victories and achievements," Bygrave told the Jamaica Observer.
"My times and performances so far are very pleasing but, as always, I am aiming to lower my times each time I compete so I would say there is more to come as I am expecting to leave Champs with both gold medals and possibly a record in the 800m," he declared.
The current 800m record stands at 1:48.58, set by Edwin Allen's Chevonne Hall in 2021. Another Jamaica College middle distance stalwart, Jvoughnn Blake equalled that time last year.
While his confidence was also sky-high last year, Bygrave's performances might not have reflected that much. But the buoyant athlete considers the fact that he was contesting his first year in Class 1 a baptism of fire.
Then, Bygrave only contested the 400m where he placed eighth in 48.10s, but later joined teammates to cop the coveted 4x400m relay title.
"Going into Champs last year was a big moment and task for me because I was stepping up from Class 2 where I was dominant and into Class 1 to roll with the big boys where there was a lot more intensity and big names. So I was a bit nervous but ready for the task ahead, and because I am an athlete who runs well under pressure, it didn't take me long to adjust," Bygrave explained.
"I pushed myself and worked hard to keep up with the bigger boys. Unfortunately I didn't medal individually but the relay win was an accomplishment because it was something that I have dreamt of but wasn't really focusing on at the time because of the event differences," he shared.
Having taken the lessons from that outing, the now second-year Class 2 athlete has honed his craft and is eagerly awaiting the start of the five-day spectacle.
"Yeah, last year taught me a lot and I've applied the lessons to always work hard — regardless of the field — and always believe that I am more than capable to come out on top. So like I said, coach and I have been putting in the extra work, and with that continued belief I know the times will improve.
"The overall goal is to finish my season running 1:47s or faster for the 800m, and 3:55s for the 1.500, and also to represent my country to the best of my ability every opportunity I get," Bygrave noted.
And what of his team's chances of reclaiming the title they last won in 2021?
"My team is confident and ready to give of our best efforts; and wherever that takes us, I'm sure my school and support [team] will be happy," he ended.