Sprint great Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce believes the sensational sub-10 and sub-11 seconds clockings by two of Jamaica's future prospects at the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA)/GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls' Athletics Championships is yet another testament of the country's world-class coaching and athletic potential.
Though she wasn't on hand at the National Stadium for the breathtaking performances by Kingston College's Bouwahjgie Nkrumie and Hydel High's Alana Reid in their respective 100-metre finals on Wednesday's second day of the five-day event, Fraser-Pryce — like many locally and abroad — was glued to her television set to witness the spectacle.
Reid, 18, first clocked a staggering 10.92 seconds in a positive 1.0 per second wind speed, which was not only a new national Under-20 record, but also annihilated Veronica Campbell-Brown's 22-year-old championship mark of 11.13s set back in 2001. The previous National record was 10.95s set by Tina Clayton last year.
Minutes later Nkrumie became the first high school athlete in Jamaican history to go under 10 seconds, producing 9.99 in a positive 0.3 metres per second wind reading. The effort was the final conclusion to his semi-final time of 10.08s which he earlier clocked to surpass Zharnel Hughes's nine-year-old record of 10.12s.
While lauding the achievement by both athletes Fraser-Pryce, who trains locally with Coach Reynaldo Walcott at Elite Performance Track Club, pointed to Reid's effort in particular as a significant statement on the local programmes.
"Like everybody else I think it was super, super impressive. The fact that a schoolgirl can come to Champs, which is the pinnacle of her high school career, and run a sub-11 is fantastic. You have people working all their lives to run a sub-11 and to be able to witness it was really special," Fraser-Pryce told the Jamaica Observer.
"I think it sends the right message — not just to Jamaicans, but those abroad as well — to say that we have developed a huge programme here in Jamaica and our coaches are fantastic. It doesn't matter where you are in the world you are, top-class coaching and performances can be done right here in Jamaica," she added.
During her visit to the National Stadium on Thursday, the 13-time world championship and eight-time Olympic medallist had a brief one-on-one with Reid, which she said was all about putting the young sprint sensation on the right path for further success.
"The championship isn't finished for her so I will reserve my comments in terms of what I said to her — I just hope that she continues working hard. Anything else I think is for the coach, and you want the athlete to listen to the coach and so far I think the coach is guiding her right, so we just want to see what happens in the 200m and the 4x100m," Fraser-Pryce noted.
That said, the sprint queen, who is set to hang her spikes up after next year's Paris Olympic Games, believes the future of Jamaica's sprinting, particularly on the women's side, is in good hands as she weighed in on the debate of whether or not high school athletes are rushing their transition to the professional ranks.
Kerrica Hill and twins Tina and Tia Clayton are a few who recently made that transition.
"I have seen young athletes transition to the senior ranks and go on to represent their countries very well so, to be honest, I wouldn't say that [it is too early]. Each situation is unique and should be treated as such because it requires a lot of support, and I think we are at a time right now where coaches see and understand the importance of transitioning and are making sure they prepare their athletes for that level of competition," Fraser-Pryce reasoned. "So without a doubt [Jamaica's sprinting is in good hands].
"I think the coaches are learning and they are putting it in their programme, and you can see the results.
"I hope that we will continue to see the progress and continue to develop our athletes, and then after that we can transition those athletes to seniors, because I believe that we have the depth of talent here and I hope this will send the right message for athletes to keep working," she noted.
Fraser-Pryce also had a message for the powers that be to provide the necessary financial backing for the young athletes' sustained development.
"I think what is happening at Champs now is remarkable. We have never seen the things that we are witnessing now and so the progress is good for me," the "Pocket Rocket" stated.
"Yes, we did great things back in our time but now where I see track and field and Champs headed is amazing. And you hope they continue to invest in the athletes and in the programmes — not only in schools with names but also the non-traditional schools because I have seen a number of them come out and do well, even if it is with just one athlete," she ended.
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