Track potential is still emerging

The brilliance of last month’s
CARIFTA Games best performances overshadowed the immense achievements of the Cayman
team.

Recently there has been a lot of
negativity over the performance of Cayman’s athletes at the CARIFTA Games and
some unfavourable comments in comparing the Cayman team with how well the
Jamaicans did.

Cayman secured only one medal at
the championships and that was the under-17 girl’s 100 metres won by Chantelle
Morrison.

There were many positive results
from the Caymanian team although no other medals.

Everyone knows of her gold medal
winning performance. However, Morrison recorded her personal best for the 200m
in 24.57 seconds despite running the second half of the race cautiously with a
pulled hamstring.

Her time in the 100m victory is the
fastest time to date in the world for a female youth athlete. She has qualified
for the Youth Olympic Games and the World Junior Championships.

Anissa Owen finished sixth in the U20
girls long jump and in the process set not only a national junior but also a
new national senior record for the event with her leap of 5.59m.

Kristin Dixon was originally passed
over for team selection, yet she earned her spot as an alternate in the U17 girl’s
4x100m relay.

To keep her active, she was entered
in the 100m hurdles which she has only recently started training for; but
nonetheless, she qualified for the CARIFTA Games finals and posted a personal
best of 15.17secs.

Bearing in mind the short time in
which she has taken up this highly technical event, her results and achievement
is remarkable.

Shanique Yen went into the Games
carrying a leg injury. She battled bravely in the gruelling U17 400m and
despite the injury managed to do a time that was good enough to qualify her for
the finals. Sadly, her injury prevented her from competing in the finals but
there is no doubting her potential.

Melinda McLean at 15 was one of the
youngest competitors in the U17 sprints yet she recorded personal bests of
12.40secs and 25.00secs for the 100m and 200m respectively. Given her age and
relative inexperience, this too is a good result and will stand her in good
stead for the 2011 Games in St. Kitts.

No Caymanian athlete has ever been
recorded as running below 2 minutes for the 800m yet Jorel Bellafonte set a new
national junior and senior record when he clocked 1 minute 59.58 seconds.

Joseph Suberan’s personal best for
the 200m was recorded at these Games where his time of 21.47secs also made him
a qualifier for the World Juniors Championships later this year.

Tristan von Kerchenheim was running
in his first CARIFTA Games and he returned his personal best for 3,000m in a
time of 10.06.05 in the U17 boy’s race. .

Troy Long’s personal best of 22.92secs
in the U17 boys 200m meant that he met the qualifying standard for the Youth
Olympic Games.

Travis Webb’s fourth place finish
in the U20 boy’s high jump with a clearing height of 2.08 metres was his
personal best for the event.

Andrew Frederick, Vernon Kelly and
Alex Pascal were all competing in their first CARIFTA Games. These youngsters,
who were all comparatively new to the sport, recorded personal bests in the U17
boy’s shot put, discus and javelin events respectively.

In the U17 boys 4x100m relay and
U20 boys 4x100m relay both teams finished fourth and just outside the medals at
the Games.

Cayman track official Delroy Murray
said: “So at the end of the Games statistics showed that we won one gold medal,
but as the saying goes, ‘there are lies, damned lies and statistics’ and my
fear is that the focus on the one gold medal is causing us to lose sight of the
bigger and truer picture.

“All the athletes identified, with
the exception of Suberan and Webb, are in the U17 division. Apart from Suberan,
who has completed his CARIFTA Games career, and Webb, who has one more year in
the U20 division, all the remaining athletes have at least three more years of
active competition at this level and can only improve provided much needed corrective
measures are in place.

“One of the measures that needs to
be put in place is, of course, support for our young athletes both financially
and, equally as important, emotionally.

“My fear is that the current
negative discussion is likely to do more harm than good to the emotional psyche
of these youngsters.

“We should be actively encouraging
and praising them instead of wrongly comparing their performances to that of
the Jamaicans.

“The fact is that comparing the
Jamaicans to any other nation competing at the CARIFTA Games is pointless.

“They are in a separate league at
this and at any other level regionally and internationally when it comes to
track and field. This is not because of any inherent makeup or because their
coaches are better than the coaches of the other nations.

“Every study on Jamaican athletes
and the success of its athletes, especially at the youth and junior levels,
come back to the one conclusion, namely that the source of the success can be
traced to Champs, an institution that this year celebrated 100 years of
existence.

“Champs are the annual
inter-secondary schools track and field championships organised by the Inter-Secondary
Sports Association, a body made up of officials from the various high schools
in Jamaica.

“It is the oldest such high school
championships in the region and possibly the whole world. It is the bedrock
upon which the Jamaican track and field programme is founded and is the
starting point of any discussion on comparisons with the Jamaican programme.

“Whereas the Jamaicans have had 100
successive years of inter-high school track and field competition, the Cayman Islands,
in comparison, is the last country in the North American Central American and
Caribbean Confederation to have such a championship.

“A tentative start was made in 2008
but not repeated in 2009 and a new start was made this year with the Maples
Inter-Scholastic Track and Field Championships.

“The Jamaicans left Cayman with historically
the overall gold medal tally of 999, a silver medal haul of 696 and a bronze
medal collection of 477.

“No other country participating in
the Games comes remotely close to matching this record.

“The Cayman Islands ended the Games
with a total medal collection of 18 gold, 24 silver and 33 bronze. The Islands
finished in the joint 11th position with Guyana out of 24 countries of whom
eight failed to win a medal of any hue.

“This placed Cayman Islands in the
middle of the medal table, which historically again is where they are placed in
the overall medals table both in the quantity and quality of medals won.

“Without a continuous
inter-secondary championships, these Islands have won 75 medals in the 31 years
that it has competed at these Games.

“Imagine what could be achieved if
we had a sustained and viable inter-secondary school championships mirrored
along the lines of Jamaica’s Champs or even our own inter-primary
championships. It is time to put this right.

“In all the circumstances, given
Cayman’s history at these championships and the lack of a Champs, the
achievements of these youngsters far from being the subject of criticism should
be the object of praise and pride.

By and large they gave of their
best and when that is done the usual truism is nothing more can or should be
asked for.

“What we must now strive to do is
to ensure that this is built on and that those who only count success in terms
of medals won or how close we can get to the Jamaicans in the medal count can
join in the celebration of our youth rather than in their castigation.”

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