Sports

Olympic qualifier and record breakers at nationals

There are now nine Bahamians qualified for the Olympics; juniors Strachan and Miller stand out

Just about all of the top athletic stars in the country showed up to compete this past weekend, and the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) put on a thrilling national championships event at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.

Despite the threat of COVID-19, athletes came out and showed just how hard they have been working over the past two years in attempts to qualify for the Olympics and major regional and world competitions and also to maintain fitness levels and stay relevant in their respective disciplines in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stealing the spotlight over the weekend was a couple of junior standouts who both broke national records and solidified their positions on The Bahamas’ World Athletics (WA) World Under-20 Championships team, and Anthonique Strachan who became the ninth Bahamian, and fourth Bahamian in the women’s 200 meters (m), to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Strachan finished second in the women’s 200m at the 2021 BAAA National Junior and Senior Track and Field Championships on Sunday, crossing the finish line in 22.76 seconds. Shaunae Miller-Uibo won in 22.18 seconds. The qualifying time for the Olympics is 22.80 seconds.

“I haven’t been running much so to come here for nationals and do what I did, I feel pretty good about it,” said Strachan. “It feels awesome. Now, I don’t have to worry or wait for someone to let me know if I would make the quota for the team. I achieve the standard and I feel good about it. I just want to thank all of the ladies who came out and participated and gave me a push. They helped me, they helped Shaunae and they helped the federation and The Bahamas. Thank you all so much for the support, and hopefully, we could make The Bahamas proud in the women’s 200 in Tokyo.”

Keyshawn Strachan and Wendell Miller, both still high school athletes at St. John’s College, rewrote The Bahamas’ national record books in the javelin and 400 meters (m) events, respectively.

Strachan, 17, tossed the javelin 71.62m (234’ 11”), breaking The Bahamas’ junior and senior national records. The previous junior record of 69.94m (229’ 5”) was set more than 30 years ago, by Kevin Smith in 1989; and the former senior national mark of 70.72m (232’) was done by Eleuthera native Denzel Pratt at the Big South Championships in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2017.

Strachan, of Blue Chip Athletics, had three throws over 70m (229’ 8”) – the senior national record setting throw, which came on his final attempts, a 70.25m (230’ 6”) effort on his first attempt, and another throw that measured 70.55m (231’ 5”).

“I was training pretty hard for this and I expected to do well,” said Strachan. “I had a goal to come out here and break the record and I was able to do that. I just want to thank my coach, my family and my supporters and everyone who was there for me from the beginning. I really appreciate that. I just wanted to go out there and execute and I couldn’t be more happy with the result. It feels great. I waited a whole year for this. I just want to continue to get better.”

Miller, 18, ran 45.81 seconds in the men’s 400m to break The Bahamas junior national record of 45.94 seconds that was done Stephen “Dirty” Newbold at the CARIFTA Games in 2013. World Champion Steven Gardiner won in 44.52 seconds. Grand Bahamian Alonzo Russell was third in 46.31 seconds.

“I feel very accomplished. This is my first time running in the Olympic Trials and to come out with a junior national record is a good feeling,” said Miller. “I went out there and I did my best and even though I didn’t win, I feel very good about it.”

The youngster, CARIFTA Under-17 Boys 400m Champion ion 2019, said having Gardiner in the race gave him quite a push.

“That really gave me a boost,” he said. “I just came up short, but I did my best and I’m happy with that. This was a good opportunity to go against Steven. He encouraged me a lot. He just told me to hang in there and keep working hard and I’ll achieve my goals.”

Gardiner said it was an amazing feeling competing in front of the home crowd and he looks forward to going to the Olympics and representing the country well. He encouraged Miller to continue working hard and that eventually, he’ll be the next big sprinting star for The Bahamas.

Steven Gardiner competes at the 2021 BAAA National Junior and Senior Track and Field Championships yesterday. AHVIA J. CAMPBELL

“I feel pretty good. It’s been a long season – a long year, but we’re getting to where we need to be for the Olympics and I’m happy about that. It’s scorching, but it’s one lap, so I just had to go out there and get the job done,” said Gardiner. “I told him (Miller) that I remember when I came for the CARIFTA Trials and he won the under-17 boys 400. He’s going to be amazing. Once he keeps doing what he needs to do, he’s going to be the man to beat. He’s going to be the next big thing for The Bahamas. He just has to keep working hard.”

Miller-Uibo doubled up, running the women’s 400m at the nationals as well. She won that event comfortably in 50.48 seconds. Collegiate athletes Doneisha Anderson, of the University of Florida, and Megan Moss, of the University of Kentucky, were second and third, in times of 52.67 and 53.23 seconds, respectively.

“I feel pretty good. I just give God all the thanks and praise,” said Miller-Uibo. “It’s always a pleasure coming here and competing in front of the home crowd. This is paradise and it was fun to be out here. I’m glad that I was able to put on a good performance. I’m just happy to come out of the race healthy and I’ll be ready when the Olympic Games come around.”

Miller-Uibo said she’s just running herself back into shape after being out of action for a while with a slight injury. Given the times that have been ran around the world in the women’s 200m at various national championships – seven athletes going sub-22, including a blazing 21.61 seconds by American Gabrielle Thomas who moved to number two on the all-time list – it’s fair to say the women’s 200m is going to be one of the most anticipated races at the Olympics. Miller-Uibo has already stated her intention of going after the 200m title as opposed to defending her title in the 400m.

“I’ll be ready when the Olympics come around,” she said. “Those girls (Americans and Jamaicans) are running really well, and I think it’s going to be a very good race at the Olympics. The competitor that I am, I’m just going to go there and give it my all and hope for the best.”

For the second Olympics in a row, The Bahamas has four qualifiers in the women’s 200m – Miller-Uibo, Strachan, Tynia Gaither and Brianne Bethel.

“We all worked very hard. Track and field is a tedious sport and we all go out there and put our best foot forward,” said Strachan. “I just hope that we could make this little country shine and be proud of us. We need something extra, especially given everything we went through in the past five years with the hurricane and the pandemic. It’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to it.”

In the men’s 200m, Teray Smith crossed the finish line in a season’s best time of 20.67seconds but fell short of the Olympic qualifying time of 20.24 seconds. Terrence Jones Jr., a freshman at Texas Tech University, finished second in 20.81 seconds. He ran a junior national record time of 20.36 seconds at the NCAA West Preliminaries in May of this year.

“All year, I’ve been struggling but I feel pretty good about what I was able to do today,” said Smith. “I didn’t get the standard but it feels good to be national champion. I’m just thankful for the win and to finish healthy.”

Jones also finished second in the 100m, running a personal best of 10.39 seconds. Smith was third in that race in 10.43 seconds. Samson Colebrooke, The Bahamas’ only Olympic qualifier in the short sprints, won that race in 10.31 seconds. Colebrooke qualified for the Olympics with a blazing run of 10.01 seconds at the NACAC (North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association) U18 (Under-18) and U23 (Under-23) Championships in Queretaro, Mexico, in the summer of 2019. The qualifying time for the Olympics is 10.05 seconds.

“My body is a li’l tired. It’s been a long season, but I still have to stay sharp and mentally prepared because I have the Olympics to come,” said Colebrooke. “I wanted to come out here and run a good race and I feel like I was able to do that. I feel like I’m just getting back to where I need to be. I have a month to go before the Olympics, so I’ll just continue to prepare and try to bring home the gold.”

Jones usually contests the long sprints but said he decided to come down to the 100 and 200m at nationals to work on his speed.

“This was the first time running the 100 for the season, so I feel pretty good about it,” he said. “This shows that I am progressing and close to where I want to be. I feel pretty happy and I’m grateful to do what I did today. Due to a slight injury I had this season, I wasn’t able to get any consistent 400 runs in, so I just decided to come down to the 100 and 200 for these nationals and develop my speed some more.”

For the first time ever, The Bahamas has two athletes qualified in a hurdles event at the Olympics. They are Devynne Charlton and Pedrya Seymour and both have met the mark in the women’s 100m hurdles. Charlton and Seymour have season’s best times of 12.61 seconds and 12.88 seconds, respectively. At the nationals on Sunday, they finished first and second in times of 12.87 and 12.92 seconds, respectively. The 12.61 time for Charlton is a new national record, breaking the time of 12.64 seconds that Seymour ran for sixth at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.

“It feels good to be back home competing in front of the Bahamian crowd,” said Charlton. “I feel OK about it. I didn’t execute the way I wanted to but all things considered, I feel like I did pretty decent and I’m looking forward to competing at the Olympics. I feel pretty good.”

Seymour said she was pleased with her run and was just glad that they were able to put on a show in front of the Bahamian people.

“It was a good race. I just wanted us to come out here and run well for the Bahamian people. Both of us wanted to run faster but we’re thankful to come out of it healthy and now we look forward to the Olympics. For me, I just have to sharpen up on my technique and get faster going into Tokyo,” said Seymour.

In the men’s high jump on a wet and rainy Friday night, former World Champion Donald Thomas came out on top with a a leap of 2.16m (7’ 1”), well below the Olympic qualifying height of 2.33m (7’ 7-3/4”). Former World bronze medalist Trevor Barry, 2019 CARIFTA Under-20 Boys Champion Shaun Miller Jr. and two-time CARIFTA Under-20 Boys silver medalist Kyle Alcine finished second to fourth, respectively, all clearing 2.13m (6’ 11-3/4”).

“I came out here to compete and I’m content. In these conditions to be able to come out here and compete hard and walk away with the victory, I’m satisfied, particularly coming out injury-free,” said Thomas. “I just have to continue to progress and continue to stay focussed. I wanted more, of course, but under these conditions, I’m just happy to walk away injury-free and with the victory. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season,” he added.

In the women’s 100m, Gaither came through for the win in 11.27 seconds. Strachan was second in 11.30 seconds, and Camille Rutherford, an American with Bahamian roots, finished third in 11.53 seconds.

National record holder Tamara Myers won a battle with collegiate athlete Charisma Taylor in the women’s triple jump. Myers won with a leap of 13.64m (44’ 9”) and Taylor was second with a leap of 13.26m (43’ 6-1/4”).

In the men’s long jump, collegiate athletes LaQuan Nairn and Holland Martin battled each other and Nairn came out with the win with a leap of 7.96m (26’ 1-1/2”). Martin finished second with a leap of 7.87 (25’ 10”).

Shakeem Smith won the men’s 400m hurdles in 52.54 seconds. Andre Colebrook was second in 52.75 seconds, and former Olympic silver medalist in the men’s 4x400m relay Andretti Bain was third in 53.68 seconds.

Youngster Carlos Brown Jr. was spectacular at the nationals winning both the under-18 boys 100 and 200m in times of 10.58 and 21.33 seconds, respectively.

Tamar Greene came out on top in the men’s triple jump, recording a best leap of 16.37m (53’ 8-1/2”). Kaiwan Culmer was second with a leap of 16.09m (52’ 9-1/2”), and twin brothers Latario and Lathone Collie were third and fourth with best leaps of 16.05m (52’ 8”) and 14.95m (49’ 0-3/4”), respectively.

Other performances from the nationals this past weekend are listed on the website tekresults.net.

The Olympics is set for July 23 to August 8, in Tokyo, Japan. Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) Secretary General Derron Donaldson said that they will ratify The Bahamas’ team sometime this week.

The Blue Marlin Last Chance Meet, set for today, will give Bahamian athletes and relay teams a final opportunity to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

The nine Bahamians qualified for the Olympics are Miller-Uibo, Gaither, Strachan, Bethel, Charlton, Seymour, Gardiner, Colebrooke and Jamal Wilson in the men’s high jump.

In addition to qualifying for the Olympics, junior athletes were attempting to qualify for the NACAC Under-18 and Under-23 Championships and the World Under-20 Championships this past weekend. The NACAC Under-18 and Under-23 Championships is set for July 9-11, in San José, Costa Rica; and the World U20s is set for August 17-22, in Nairobi, Kenya.

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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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