The Bahamas’ 50-member squad that will wear the black, gold and aquamarine in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, this Easter holiday weekend, had its final team meeting at the original Thomas A. Robinson Track and Field Stadium yesterday, and all appear to be ready heading into the 48th CARIFTA Games. The junior regional meet is rapidly approaching, set for this weekend, April 20-22, at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex in George Town in the Cayman Islands.
For the first time in many years, the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) has opted on just qualifiers for the CARIFTA Games. The standards were set and agreed upon by the coaches prior to the outdoor season, with a few late adjustments to allow for adverse wind conditions that were not taken into consideration earlier.
The team departs at the crack of dawn on Thursday morning, and competition gets underway on Saturday in George Town.
Leading the squad, Head Coach Aliey Rolle, from Grand Bahama, said he expects nothing but fantastic performances from Team Bahamas.
“I’m excited. It’s a good young team, and I feel that they will do very well. The good thing is all of them qualified, so I expect them to go there and do what they’re capable of doing which is to win gold,” said Rolle yesterday. “Right now, we are just trying to give the athletes some last minute instructions and make sure they are ready to represent themselves and this country well in Cayman. You only get out of life what you put into it, and all of them have worked hard this season, and you can clearly see that because all of them qualified. Now they are ready to real the rewards. It’s a strong team and I’m confident that they will do well.”
Jamaica has dominated the meet from its inception, winning 42 of the 47 overall titles, and 34 straight dating back to 1985. The order of finish at CARIFTA is based on gold medal count, and Jamaica usually collects more gold than all of the other countries combined. The Jamaicans finished with a whopping 82 medals at last year’s CARIFTA Games in The Bahamas – 44 gold, 27 silver and 11 bronze. The host country, The Bahamas, was a distant second, with 35 total medals – six gold, 14 silver and 15 bronze. Trinidad and Tobago finished third with 17 medals – four gold, six silver and seven bronze.
“Jamaica has been beating up on us for too long. We are ready to go there and give them a challenge,” said Rolle. “Our under-20 boys should lead the team with their performances. We have four under-20 boys who are all around 10.5 in the 100 meters. Also, we have a lot of qualifiers in the high jump, so that area is expected to be a strong point for us, and we are going to build off our success. When you look at the quarter-milers in the under-20 division, there are two of them who ran 47s so I am looking for them to go 47 low or probably a 46 high at CARIFTA. Overall, we expect them to do very well and lead by example.”
Bringing remarks at the final team meeting yesterday were long-time supporter of track and field in The Bahamas Beverly Wallace-Whitfield who spoke on protocol, behavior and what it means to wear The Bahamas’ colors; and Clint Watson who brought inspiring words.
Team Bahamas will consist of 11 under-17 girls, 10 in the under-17 boys category, 11 in the under-20 girls division, and 18 under-20 boys.
Two of the younger athletes who are expected to perform well based on the times and marks they posted all season are under-17 athletes Omar Kelly and Shaunece Miller.
Kelly qualified in both the 800 and 1500 meters (m) events. In the 800m, he posted the fastest qualifying time for The Bahamas, running a blazing personal best time of 2:02.40 at the CARIFTA Trials.
“I feel pretty good. The goal is to go there, do my best, and hopefully get a PR (personal best time),” he said. “I know the competition is going to be stiff, but I just put everything in God’s hands and let Him do the rest. I went out there and had my mind set that I was going to run a fast time at the trials, and I was able to do that, so I was happy about that. I’m just going to put my all into all of my events in Cayman and hopefully come out with a couple medals. The 800 is my tougher race, so I really want to put my all into that and do well in that event, but I am looking to do well in both of my events.”
Miller qualified early in the season, posting a mark of 1.59m (5’ 2-1/2”) in the under-17 girls high jump at the Bahamas Association of Independent Secondary Schools (BAISS) Track and Field Meet. She came back at the high school nationals and had a jump of 1.61m (5’ 3-1/4”), and then leapt 1.65m (5’ 5”) at the CARIFTA Trials.
“ I feel good,” she said yesterday. “I’m expecting a gold and hopefully a PR (personal best mark). Once I qualified, my mind was focussed on the games and on representing The Bahamas well. With me qualifying early, I was able to work on technique and try to clean up my errors and work on my approach. I feel good with where I am at right now.”
Shaunece Miller is one half of three sets of siblings on Team Bahamas for the 48th CARIFTA Games. Her older brother Shaun qualified in the under-20 boys high jump and the open boys octathlon. They are the brother and sister of superstar track and field athlete Shaunae Miller-Uibo. Also, distance-running brothers Gabriel and Mitchell Curtis are on the CARIFTA team again. The third pair of siblings on Team Bahamas is Michaelangelo Bullard who will compete in the under-20 boys javelin and Rhema Otabor who will compete in the under-20 girls javelin.
Shaunece Miller, who is on her second consecutive CARIFTA team, said that she is looking for her and her brother to win gold. Older brother Shaun is one of the more accomplished members of Team Bahamas, winning gold at the 2017 CARIFTA Games in Willemstad, Curaçao, and finishing fifth in the boys high jump at the 2017 World Under-18 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya.
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