The Bahamas has its own version of Briana Williams – the double sprint world under-20 champion from Jamaica – and her name is Jaida Knowles.
Knowles proved this season that she is among the world’s elite in the short sprints and a name to look out for in the future. She blazed personal best times in both the 100 and 200 meters (m), was a triple medalist at the CARIFTA games here in Nassau, The Bahamas, and represented herself well on the world stage – making the semifinals of the 100m at the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) World U20 Championships before getting injured.
She ended the year ranked in the top 50 in the world in the under-18 female 100 and 200m, and is recognized as The Nassau Guardian’s Junior Female Athlete of the Year.
At CARIFTA, Knowles ran personal best times of 11.68 seconds in the 100m and 23.85 seconds in the 200m. She was second behind Williams in the under-17 girls 100m and finished third in the 200m. Williams won the 200m and Trinidad & Tobago’s Sheniqua Bascombe was second.
At just 16-years-old, Knowles is on the doorstep of greatness. She went to the IAAF World U20 Championships in Tampere, Finland, with the intention of making a statement and shocking the world. She appeared to be on target to do just that but got injured in the opening round heats of the 100m, bringing her global experience to a close. Knowles failed to line up for the semis of the 100m, and was a no-show for the opening round of the 200m.
Still, she had left her mark. She was a triple gold medalist at the Bahamas Association of Independent Secondary Schools (BAISS) Track and Field Championships, setting up what would be a transformative CARIFTA Games at home for her. Global star Williams was the heavy favorite at CARIFTA, but Knowles showed that she would indeed be a force to reckon with in the future.
The young sprinter lowered her personal best time by almost half of a second in the 100m this year, and by almost a full second in the 200m.
The sky is the limit for Knowles.
Last year’s winner of The Nassau Guardian’s Junior Female Athlete of the Year title Lilly Higgs and quarter-miler Megan Moss finished tied for second in the voting process this year.
Higgs, who just completed her first semester for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, was once again one of the stars for The Bahamas at the CARIFTA Swimming Championships, helping The Bahamas win its fourth CARIFTA swimming title in the past five years. Moss struck gold for The Bahamas in the under-17 girls 400m at CARIFTA, and ended the year as the 12th ranked under-18 female quarter-miler in the world. She also represented The Bahamas at the Youth Olympics.
Sydney Clarke, who won multiple events on the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) Junior Tour this year and ended the year as The Bahamas’ national champion with her victory at the Giorgio Baldacci National Tennis Tournament, finished fourth in The Nassau Guardian’s voting process.
The resilient Charisma Taylor, who had the highest individual finish for a Bahamian female at the IAAF World U20 Championships, was fifth.