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Jamaica’s top athletes hunt spots on teams to major international meets

The highly anticipated Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) National Junior and Senior Championships, which will be used to select teams for a number of international championships later this summer, will get underway today at the National Stadium.

For the next four days, some of the world’s top athletes, including World and Olympic champions, medal winners and World Under 20 champions will be among the nearly 600 athletes who will be seeking places on the team to the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, next month.

Also, the race is on for spots on teams to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, and the World Under-20 Championships in Cali, Colombia, in August.

As expected, the four sprint events — two each in the seniors and juniors — will grab most of the attention, while the sprint hurdles and 400m are also expected to keep fans on the edge of their seat and in front of their television sets for the duration.

Despite three senior finals — all in the jumps and six finals for the juniors are set for today’s first day — it’s expected that the first rounds of the 100m will be the main attraction, but fans might have to wait until Sunday in the 200m final for the first clash between World champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah.

Fraser-Pryce cast doubts as to whether she would contest the 100m which she has a wild card entry as the defending champion, at a pre-meet press conference in Paris last weekend, but confirmed she would contest the 200m before deciding whether she would contest the double in Eugene.

She is, however, entered for both events and if the world leader, who twice ran 10.67 seconds this year, opts out, it would leave a massive gap but the competition for the other three spots to the World Championships would be just as fierce.

Thompson-Herah, Olympic bronze medallist Shericka Jackson and a battery of young sprinters are lined up with their minds set on getting into Friday’s final.

Among them are former World Under-20 double sprint champions Briana Williams, who got her first taste of a major global championships last year when she won an Olympic gold medal as part of the Jamaican 4x100m relay team; Kemba Nelson, Kevona Davis and Natalliah White, who all ran under 11.00 seconds this year.

Natasha Morrison, later bloomer Shockoria Wallace, Remona Burchell, Shimayra Williams, Ashanti Moore, and Shashalee Forbes will lead the local-based brigade that will hope to upstage their more fancied rivals.

The odds are that there will be the dawn of a new generation in the men’s 100m this weekend when 21-year-old Oblique Seville and 20-year-old Ackeem Blake go up against the old guard led by former World champion Yohan Blake and defending National champion Tyquendo Tracey.

Sprint guru Glen Mills, who trains Seville at Racers Track Club, has been quoted as saying he thinks his young charge can run faster than his personal best 9.86 seconds set earlier this year.

Ackeem Blake set his personal best 9.95 seconds pushing World champion Christian Coleman to the line at a meeting in New York two weeks ago and should be able to run faster this weekend, but it will be uncharted territory for the youngsters despite Seville anchoring the Jamaican 4x100m relay team in the Olympics last year.

Both will be seeking to make the team in the individual events and the mental pressure is expected to be ramped up several notches.

Olympic Games 400m finalist Christopher Taylor is an interesting entrant in the men’s 100m as well as World Championships long jump defending champion Tajay Gayle.

In the juniors, World Under-20 women’s 100m champion Tina Clayton will lead a list of some of the best in the world, including Brianna Lyston, Kerrica Hill, Serena Cole and Alana Reid, all in the top seven in the world in their age group, plus Tia Clayton who is ranked number 11th.

Jeevan Newby, who was second in the Class One 100m at the ISSA Champs in April, is the top Jamaican Under-20 runner in the 100m this year with a best of 10.22 seconds, just ahead of Carifta Games champion Deandre Daley’s 10.23 seconds, but Bryan Levell could steal the win this weekend with his wealth of experience.

Bouwahjgie Nkrume and last year’s double sprint champion Sandrey Davison could make the 100m interesting as well.

Also today, double NCAA champion Lamara Distin is expected to defend her high jump championship, and after already getting the qualifying standard for the World Championships, she could go after 2.00m if the conditions are right.

Kimberly Williamson set a personal best 1.93m just off the 1.96m qualifying mark for the World Championships, but is ranked 13th in the world and is within the quota that could be invited to take part.

The women’s long jump and men’s triple jump will also be contested, with the girls’ javelin, triple jump, discus throw, both steeple chase races and girls’ 400m hurdles titles down to be decided.

Veteran Yohan Blake will be in the mix of talented young guns in the 100m. (Photos: Observer file)
WILLIAMS...a good example of the emerging generation ready to stake claim at senior level (Photos: Observer file)
Golden Glory Logo Colour World Championships <strong>Observer</strong>
Paul Reid

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