Cayman Invitational gets back on track

Big names fall, new Jamaican star emerges

A pair of track legends and an 18-year-old Jamaican phenom highlighted the 2018 Cayman Invitational, which returned to the Truman Bodden Sports Complex in George Town Saturday after a one-year hiatus.

Organizers estimated between 1,800 and 2,000 people attended the Saturday night track-and-field competition, which mainly involved sprints and middle-distance races with one long jump event thrown in.

The competition saw the return of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Jamaica’s two-time Olympic gold medalist in the women’s 100m dash, to the international track. Ms. Fraser-Pryce, 31, has largely been out of the track-and-field scene since winning a bronze medal in the women’s 100m dash in the 2016 Rio Olympic games.

She told reporters Friday that she’d taken some time off to heal a nagging toe injury, and to give birth to her son last year.

“I would look at it as a comeback,” Ms. Fraser-Pryce said. “Having a child takes a toll on you and being out of competition for some time … I remember going to practice, going into the blocks for the first time and I didn’t know which hand to move first.”

The Jamaican legend’s comeback was spoiled by American Jenna Prandini, who took first in the women’s 100m dash in a time of 11.16 seconds. Ms. Fraser-Pryce finished tied for second in a time of 11.33 seconds with Aaliyah Brown, also of the U.S.

Another famous Jamaican sprinter, Asafa Powell, was scheduled to run in the men’s 100m dash, but did not compete, citing a lack of preparation in the weeks before the event. The Americans also triumphed in a close race for the men’s 100m dash with Jeff Demps posting a time of 10.1 seconds, .13 seconds ahead of Jamaica’s Tyquendo Tracey.

Perhaps the biggest cheers of the night were reserved for 18-year-old Jamaican phenomenon Christopher Taylor, who posted a personal best time of 45.24 seconds in the men’s 400m dash – good enough to win ahead of several of his senior peers, including Javon Francis and Rusheen McDonald of Jamaica.

Mr. Taylor said it was his first 400m race since February and that he was not sure whether he would focus on the 200m or 400m in the future. He said he had to finish up high school before making any career decisions.

“After I finish school, maybe I can go professional,” he said. “That’s my aim right now.”

The other competing track legend, U.S. Olympic gold medalist LaShawn Merritt, had a tough night in the men’s 200m race, finishing second. First place went to Kyle Greaux of Trinidad and Tobago who posted a 20.45 second time, ahead of Mr. Merritt’s 20.54 seconds. Kyree King of the U.S. finished third in the men’s 200m.

Mr. Merritt said he felt he had “poorly executed” in the race, but noted he was glad to be back in Cayman for another invitational.

“I like it, like the atmosphere … I’ve been here before, just on vacation,” he said. “It’s a cool island. I enjoy it here.”

Aaliyanna Anderson, left, Renarda Powell and Rianna Rankin of Mustang Track Club compete in the girls’ 100m.

Cayman athletes

Cayman’s senior athletes competed in the women’s 200m dash, the men’s long jump, the men’s 110m hurdles, the women’s 800m run and the men’s 800m run.

Well-known local sprinter Kemar Hyman was absent from the meet for family reasons and Cayman’s own 400m phenom Jamal Walton is currently away at university in Texas.

However, another up-and-coming runner, Rasheem Brown, 18, got his first experience running against the “big boys” in the 110m men’s hurdles. Mr. Brown finished 5th with a time of 14.46 seconds.

Mr. Brown said he was excited to compete in front of the home crowd and felt he got off to a good start, though he said he stumbled over a few hurdles toward the end.

“The [senior] athletes are fast, they’re very motivated,” Mr. Brown said. “I really enjoyed being out there.”

The 18-year-old drew praise from the 110m hurdles winner, Wellington Zaza of Liberia, who finished at 13.74 seconds.

Cayman’s Victor Magalhaes places 4th in the men’s 800m.

“The homeboy over there who’s here from the Cayman, he’s a great athlete,” Mr. Zaza said. “And Dejour [Russell] from Jamaica, those guys are coming up young. It’s a pleasure just competing against those guys.”

Women’s 800m competitor Tiffany Cole finished fourth against international competitors from Trinidad, the U.S. and Barbados. Ms. Cole said she was disappointed in her own time of two minutes, 18.76 seconds, but relished the opportunity for competition.

“It’s like a dream come true,” Ms. Cole said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get competition on your own track, especially in the Cayman Islands.”

Other local athletes competing in the invitational included Carl Morgan, who finished 3rd in the men’s long jump, Aijah Lewis, finishing 8th in the women’s 200m dash, and Victor Magalhaes, placing 4th in the men’s 800m run.

Retired Caymanian Olympic sprinter Cydonie Mothersill, who founded the Cayman Invitational event in 2012, said she was glad to see the event back on for 2018 and hoped it would continue next year.

“It’s not difficult … for athletes to want to come to compete in the Cayman Islands,” she said. “It’s great weather, we have great fans and it’s only a 45-minute flight from Jamaica.”