The Cayman Islands Invitational meet is only three years old but it has already established itself on the wish list of track events Caribbean and American champions must compete in.
The fact that Usain Bolt headlined last year and Yohan Blake in its inaugural staging in 2012 gave it more than enough kudos.
This time the women took center stage with sprinters Veronica Campbell-Brown and Allyson Felix the star draws at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex on Wednesday.
Felix, disappointingly, pulled out of the 200 meters on the day through injury but at least Campbell-Brown ran the 100m. Although the Jamaican speedster only came fourth, in 11.27 seconds, behind winner Jeneba Tarmoh of the U.S. (11.14 seconds), Ivory Coast’s Muriel Ahoure (11.15 secs) and Briton Asha Phillip (11.19 secs), Campbell-Brown was the main attraction and the athlete fans and media focused on her post-race.
Campbell-Brown has come through a lot in the past year, having had a positive drugs test that was later cleared by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. She only returned to competition three months ago so is understandably not as sharp as usual.
Because of Bolt’s presence last year, the stadium was packed, but this time it was not as well attended. Nevertheless, the crowd had plenty to cheer, especially from a Cayman perspective. Jamal Walton cruised home in the national 400m in 47.74 seconds – not a particularly fast time and well short of his national record, but Walton, who won bronze at CARIFTA at Easter, is only 15 and looks destined for world honors.
Tahj Lewis is another Caymanian teenager who has world-class potential. He ran the 800m and although finishing way behind the pros, still managed a respectable 1 minute, 57.45 seconds, a personal best.
Ronald Forbes overcame a long and painful spell of Achilles injury to compete in the 110m hurdles and was satisfied with his 13.88 seconds sixth place finish. Forbes will race again this weekend in the U.S. and hopes to be in good enough shape to challenge for a medal at the Commonwealth Games in July.
The men’s 100m was won by perennial champ Kim Collins of St. Kitts and Nevis in 10.22 seconds. Locals Kemar Hyman (10.33 secs) and Tyrell Cuffy (10.75 secs) ran. Cuffy ran the 200m earlier in 21.39 seconds, finishing sixth ahead of another Caymanian David Hamil (22.09 secs).
Best race of the night was the women’s 100m hurdles, won by American Dawn Harper in 12.81 seconds, who beat out the Jamaican pair Andrea Bliss (13.15 secs) and Latoya Greaves (13.25 secs). Harper said after she was pleased to be in Cayman and had always wanted to come, especially after her husband raced here last year and went home extolling its virtues.
Aspiring Cayman champs got a chance to mix with the pros. There were races for primary school, high school and Special Olympics kids, plus the best of Cayman’s athletes competed too.
The meet was again organized by Cayman’s track queen Cydonie Mothersill-Stephens who juggled race director duties with keeping baby daughter Sophie happy.