It’s Olympic year and Cayman’s senior athletes are focusing themselves more than ever for glory in Beijing in August.
Some brushed off the cobwebs on Saturday and the new athletics season also produced some little stars at the West Bay District Meet at the Town Hall Field.
Daryl Lashley won the 400 metres Under-20 in 54.10 seconds which makes his hopes of medaling at the Cariftas in March a real possibility. ‘I’ve never won a Carifta in the past but hopefully I will win one either this year or next year,’ he said. ‘I haven’t really done much winter training but have trained over distance. I expect to get at least third place at the Cariftas in the 400m. I don’t know the opposition but I’m confident in myself.’ The wiry 17-year-old is studying business administration at UCCI.
Coached by Kenrick Williams, Lashley is full of praise for his mentor. ‘Coach Williams has taught me very, very well. He’s taught me all the basics about running 400m and I just used it in my race so the tips are paying off and he’s doing a good job with me and the rest of the boys that train here. He’s a good coach.’
Ashleigh Nalty, 13, won the 400m in her age group pretty comfortably in 67.67secs. She competed in the high jump at Carifta last year and could combine the two in the future, her father Michael said. ‘She has already jumped 5ft 5in when she was 12,’ he said.
Determined Jamal Walton lost a shoe in the middle of his 200m race but that didn’t stop the little nine-year-old from winning in 34.02 secs.
Stephon Johnson is one of Cayman’s Olympic hopes in the 200m and long jump. Hamstring injuries hampered him last year but he is coming through a phase of productive, injury-free training and hopes that augurs well for Beijing. He breezed to 200m victory on Saturday. ‘This was a great meet and a nice way to start the year,’ he said. ‘No injuries so far and I just hope to get more meets and hopefully my time will drop. I’m taking care of myself, taking my vitamins, going to the gym and doing what I can.
‘The Truman Bodden Complex will be opened in April, I’ve been told. In the meantime there are some meets in Houston and hopefully I can compete in the 100m, 200m and long jump.’ Sprinter Robert Ibeh was another who competed to get an early season workout.
Williams is pleased how well Lashley is coming on. ‘From last year I’ve been looking at Daryl and he is looking much better this year. He’s not as strong as he aught to be, however, this is world junior year and we expect that by the time they come he will be able to lower his time. They are in Poland in July. Today is his first race in about six months so we’re hoping to do better things with him. We have big hopes for him.
‘Stephon cruised through the 200m. He’s an old hand at this, he knows what to do and he just ran to a game plan of just take it out in the first 100m and then cruise on the straight. That’s why he ran in the outer lane, because he’s so tall.
‘Overall the meet was good. I think it was a good turnout and augurs well for our junior team especially when so many of our younger ones, the under-14 came out and performed.
‘The Cariftas are in March in St Kitts and Nevis. We have a nice set of kids training for this. We are also looking forward to the world juniors. Most are looking forward to the Olympics. Others are looking forward to the Caribbean Union of Teachers meet and others looking forward to the Under-23 team. So we are looking really good for this year.’
Delroy Murray is president of the Cayman Islands Athletic Association. ‘The turn out was good today and it was great to see spectators here,’ he said. ‘And maybe it’s a blessing in disguise that the track isn’t open because most of these older athletes would have probably stayed away from the district meets and then come to the track and competed. So it’s good to see them here today and we can only hope that as the season goes along, especially when the football season comes to an end, that those athletes that play football will come and swell the numbers. We’ve had good support at West Bay and I expect the same at East End (Civic Centre Field) in two weeks’ time.
‘There are a number of athletes who have the potential to make the Olympics and it’s a matter of finding meets of quality to fit them in. It’s not likely that it’ll happen on these grass turfs but it is certainly good preparation for them in any event.’