February 10, 2020
Last year, it seemed certain that mercurial Javauney James of Saint Elizabeth Technical High School would make a run at the Class Two 800 metres record during the course of the ISSA-GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Championships. That mark – 1 minute 52.27 by Aldwyn Sappleton – had stood since 1997 and James, the reigning champion, seemed to have prepared well. The evidence appeared at the Gibson-McCook Relays when he ran a 4×800 anchor leg in 1.51.5. The record attempt fizzled when James added the 400 metres to his championships programme. He defended his 1500m title on Champs Friday and was a good fourth in the 400m the following day. When challenged by Leon Clarke of St Jago High School two hours later in the 800m final, he had no energy to resist and had to settle for the silver medal. While he concentrated mostly on the 400 metres hurdles after that, Clarke, the tall St Jago boy, reached the finals of the 800m at both the World Youth Championships and the Commonwealth Youth Games. On the way, he lowered his personal best from 1.51.33 at the National Senior Championships to 1.50.70 at the World Youth event and finally to 1.50.49 at the Commonwealth Youth Games. Both have decent speed. James covered 400 metres in 48.33 seconds at Champs last year. Clarke’s fastest time in the one-lap event is 48.70 seconds. James, whose 800m win streak dated back to his days in Class Three, will want to regain the ascendancy. If he and the long-legged Clarke, now in Class One, are both fresh, they may stretch defending champion Paul Tate, also of Saint Elizabeth Technical, with the ensuing battle drawing them close to the 1.50 barrier, with three other 2015 finalists -Shemar Walker of Jamaica College, Shevon Parkes of Bellefield, who is the 2015 1500m champion, and Rojay Granston of Holmwood all in the medal picture. LOFTY THRESHOLD No one has breached that lofty threshold at Champs since 1990 when Clevon Clair of Jamaica College and Mike Williams of St Jago clocked 1.49.51 and 1.49.96, respectively. James’ teammate Shemar Salmon ran a 1.52 flat 4×800 relay split last week at the Central Hurdles and Relays. He ran three individual events, the 800m, 1500m and 5000m in Class Two last year, possibly in pursuit of valuable Championship points. The gambit failed as the lad ended in a non-scoring ninth place in the 1500m final, after being tipped to medal in an event where he had beaten James earlier in the season. He was third in the 800m and second in the 5000m. Girls often do the 800m-1500m-3000m triple, but the 800m-1500m-5000m combo is rare. While the girls’ 3000m has been contested as a straight final for many years, the boys’ 5000m always has a preliminary round race. That makes for a particularly tough Champs Thursday with the first round of the 1500m at 9:35 a.m. on the 2015 schedule, the 800m semis at 4:30 p.m., and the 5000m preliminaries at 5:20 p.m. – Hubert Lawrence has attended Champs since 1980.