BAAA celebrates the athletes

Coming together under the stars to celebrate the athletes, the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) wrapped up what was deemed to be a very successful inaugural masquerade race weekend on Sunday night at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas.

Over the weekend, hundreds of athletes, coaches, administrators and track and field enthusiasts in general came out and supported the road races on Saturday and the BAAA Masquerade Soirée and Awards Banquet on Sunday. The latter represented the first time in a number of years that the leading organization for athletics in the country recognized its athletes in a formal end-of-year banquet and awards presentation.

Male sprinters Terrance Jones and Steven Gardiner, ironically from the two islands in the Northern Bahamas that was ravaged by Hurricane Dorian at the beginning of September, took home the coveted overall junior and senior athletes of the year awards. Jones, who hails from Grand Bahama, also won the Basil Neymour Most Outstanding Junior Male Track Athlete of the Year Award, the Errol Bodie Junior Male Athlete of the Year Award and the Sir Durward Knowles Family Island Athlete of the Year Award. Neymour culminated the night by taking home the Bernard Nottage Junior Athlete of the Year Award.

On the senior side, Gardiner, who is from Murphy Town, Abaco, captured the Senior Male Track Athlete of the Year Award, the Thomas A. Robinson Senior Male Athlete of the Year Award, and ended the night by winning the Charlie Major Senior Athlete of the Year Award. He was The Bahamas’ only World Champion from the recently held International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) World Championships in Doha, Qatar.

On the female side, Anthaya Charlton and Shaunae Miller-Uibo stood out. Charlton won the Anita Doherty Most Outstanding Junior Female Track Athlete of the Year Award, the Ronald Cartwright Most Outstanding Junior Female Field Athlete of the Year Award and the Diana Lynn Thompson Junior Female Athlete of the Year Award.

Miller-Uibo claimed the Senior Female Track Athlete of the Year Award and the Frank Rahming Senior Female Athlete of the Year Award.

Other award winners of the night were Phoebe Thompson, who won the Angela Rolle Under-15 Youth Female Athlete of the Year Award; Lynden Johnson, who won the Under-15 Youth Male Athlete of the Year Award; Keyshawn Strachan, who took home the Keith Parker Most Outstanding Junior Male Field Athlete of the Year Award; Gabriel Curtis, who is the Cross Country Male Athlete of the Year beating out his younger brother and CARIFTA gold medalist Mitchell; Sasha Wells, who won the Collegiate Female Track Athlete of the Year Award and the overall Collegiate Female Athlete of the Year Award; Charisma Taylor, won won the Collegiate Female Field Athlete of the Year Award; Samson Colebrooke, who won both the Collegiate Male Track Athlete of the Year Award and the Harrison Petty Collegiate Male Athlete of the Year Award; Ken Mullings, who won the Collegiate Male Field Athlete of the Year Award; Tamara Myers, who won the Senior Female Field Athlete of the Year Award; Donald Thomas, who won the Senior Male Field Athlete of the Year Award; Shantell Ferguson, who won the Ronald Simms Official of the Year Award; and John Ingraham, who was named as the Henry Crawford Coach of the Year for 2019.

Additionally, all of the athletes of national teams this year were recognized.

“The sweat is off of my brow. This was a huge night for track and field,” said BAAA President Drumeco Archer last night. “It’s most important that we acknowledge the people who make this happen, and that’s the athletes. We live and work for the athletes. All of the challenges that we would have faced is all worth it, because that is why we are here. We are here to galvanize support in our communities and we are here to inspire kids. If we could continue to support our athletes, there is nothing more inspirational than that. We are looking to put together the best relay pools for Tokyo 2020 (2020 Olympic Games). The year 2020 is going to be a fun year for us but it’s also going to be a very challenging year. My expectations are always very high. I expect more from our athletes, more from our coaches, and more from the Bahamian community.

“I want to say how proud I am of all of the award recipients tonight. This year was an amazing year for track and field at both the junior and senior levels and we should do all that we can to tell the good stories of our sport. While I congratulate Anthaya Charlton, Terrance Jones, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Steven Gardiner and John Ingraham on taking home the coveted prizes, I am compelled to say how immensely proud I am of the coaching community and athletes who have worked tirelessly for themselves and for our country. Oftentimes, the award of a medal or a trophy negates the Herculean efforts of coaches and athletes where medals were not won. They, too, deserve a medal of honor for the national and international impact they have made to our sport and we would like to encourage all of the athletes to never give up on your dream of becoming some of the best athletes in the world.”

Most of the senior athletes have already begun offseason conditioning programs and are in their respective professional camps overseas, and were therefore unable to attend Sunday night’s awards show. However, almost all of the junior athletes to make national teams this year were in attendance on Sunday evening.

National Junior Athlete of the Year Terrance Jones said he is looking forward to continued improvement in 2020. He ended the year tied as the number one youth half-lapper in the world, tied as the number two junior half-lapper in the world and the number three youth quarter-miler in the world.

He ran personal best times of 20.43 seconds and 46.29 seconds in the 200 and 400 meters (m), respectively, this year. The 200m time is a new junior national record.

“This was the best season that I ever had – it went far better than I thought it would,” said Jones on Sunday night. “I was strong mentally and physically and I was able to produce PBs (personal best times) through God.” He said he didn’t realize until recently that he was so highly ranked in world athletics, and he’s not about to let the ranking cause him to lose focus. He was the only junior athlete on Team Bahamas at the Doha World Championships.

“I didn’t know until a few weeks ago when I looked at the IAAF website (World Athletics). When I saw it, I was quite shocked. It’s humbling,” he said. “The experience at the world championships was like none other. I actually froze when I looked and saw the crowd. It was a great experience.”

At 17, Jones is one of the fastest rising stars in athletics in The Bahamas. He has two more years remaining as a junior athlete, and said he will make a run at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

Charlton was one of the candidates for the Austin Sealey Award at the 2019 CARIFTA Games in George Town, Cayman Islands, winning two individual gold medals and individual bronze. She won the under-17 girls 100m in a personal best time of 11.51 seconds, won the long jump with a leap of 5.81m (19’ 0-3/4”), which was a personal best leap at the time, and finished third in the 100m hurdles in a personal best run of 13.83 seconds.

In the summer, she won the long jump title at the North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACAC) Under-18 Championships in Santiago de Querétaro, Mexico, with a personal best leap of 5.86m (19’ 2-3/4”) and finished seventh in the 100m.

“I was a bit doubtful going into CARIFTA, but confident at the same time. After the heats in the 100 in Cayman, I knew I could do it and I went on and ran well,” said Charlton. “The year 2020 is going to be a big year for me. It’s an Olympic year and I’m hoping to make my first Olympic team, but I’m not putting any pressure on myself. I’m just going to go out there, continue to work hard and hope for the best. The world juniors are next year as well, so I’m also looking forward to that event. I’m just looking to get stronger and faster,” she added.

Archer said it’s the junior program that requires the most attention because it is there that they are charged with transforming the careers of athletes and developing them into future stars.

“The senior program takes care of itself when we continue to nurture and develop the junior athletes, so it’s very important that we pay attention to the juniors,” he said. “In 2019, we began the march toward seeing huge improvement in the quality of our performances across the board and it is our hope that we continue that. Everyone understands what their jobs are, and we have to continue doing our jobs. We are looking for our athletes to continue to raise the flag high and make The Bahamas proud.

“My summary of our race weekend was positive on every front from the external support and assistance, which enabled us to achieve one of our biggest mandates – to share our sport with ordinary Bahamians with a view of bringing them closer to the work that we do by following our federation in a more meaningful way. I believe that this is how we will grow our BAAA family.

“Last night was a beautiful event and I could see the joy and appreciation from the athletes. Though it was a fundraiser for the federation, as best as we could, we made concessions for as many people as we could. Those who were not in attendance missed a most inspiring thing and I hope that next year it would be even better.”

The inaugural BAAA Masquerade Race Weekend climaxed what was a progressive and bountiful year in track and field in The Bahamas. The Bahamas shone on all fronts and the outlook for 2020 is extremely promising. The ultimate competition for next year is the Games of the 32nd Olympiad, which is set for July 24 to August 9, 2020, in Tokyo, Japan.

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Sheldon Longley

Sheldon Longley joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2001 as a sports reporter. He was promoted to sports editor in 2008. Sheldon has an extensive background in sports reporting. He covered three Olympic Games and three world championships, along with multiple smaller regional and local games.

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