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By Reynold O’Neal
After the successes of 2011 which saw the OECS countries crown their second individual Senior World Champion in Kirani James, gain bronze medals through Kim Collins and the St. Kitts and Nevis sprint relay quartet, as well as placing a finalist in a men’s field event for the first time at a global senior Championships, the year 2012 was somewhat disappointing for the region as a whole, despite some fine performances by several athletes.
Anguilla could lay claim to one of the leading Youth sprinters in the region as Zharnel Hughes built on the promise shown a year earlier, lowering the island’s national records to impressive marks 0f 10.42 seconds in the 100 metres and 20.90 for the 200. He placed third in the 100 in the under-20 division at the Carifta Games and added a silver medal in the under-18 age-group at the CAC Junior Championships. At the CAC Juniors he won the 200 metre dash and went on to advance to the semi-finals in the 100 at the World Juniors.
Dee Ann Rogers was perhaps one of the surprise medalists at the CAC Junior Champs. She placed third in the heptathlon with 4,126 points, a Leeward Islands record. The score included a 15.55 clocking in the 100 m hurdles, an Anguilla national record.
Daniel Bailey, who had twice ranked among the top ten 100 metre sprinters in the world had what was for him a down year in 2012. His season’s best mark of 10.10 seconds paled in comparison to his performances of recent years, and although he did manage to reach the semifinals at the Olympic Games . He did approach his personal best in the 200 metres with a 20.60 season’s best in Jamaica.
Brendan Christian, another sprinter of international pedigree seemed to have disappeared but resurfaced in London, placing 4th in his heat of the 200 metres with a 20.63 clocking, which he lowered to 20.58 in finishing fifth in his semi-final.
The two promising juniors of 2011 continued to progress, although Cejhae Greene moved past his colleague Tahir Walsh in the pecking order. Greene placed third in the 100 at both the Carifta Games and CAC Juniors and ran an impressive 20.90 seconds for third in the CAC200. He set a personal best of 10.46 in the 100 and was a semi-finalist in both events at the World Juniors. He will still be a junior in 2014. Walsh was fourth in the 100 at the CAC Juniors and had season’s bests of 10.57 and 21.36.
The British Virgin Islands achieved their greatest successes in 2012 at the Youth Level with Nelda Huggins extending her string of podium finishes at every regional event. Medals also came from non-traditional disciplines through the Gumbs twins in the girls’ throws and Lakeisha “Mimi” Warner at 800 metres.
There was disappointment among the seniors, none of whom attained an Olympic qualifying mark. Chantel Malone, focusing on the 400 metres for the first time, beat four Olympic qualifiers at some point without aching the qualifying mark herself.
Karene King in the 200 and Ashley Kelly in both long sprints both gave reasonably good performances.
Tahesia Harrigan had qualified for the Games a year earlier but injury kept her from performing anywhere near her peak.
Dominica’s athletes did not repeat their successes of the previous year. The undoubted star was junior sprinter Luan Gabriel, who captured Carifta gold in the 200 metres for girls under 17 and set a junior national record with her 24.12 clocking in the preliminary round at the Olympic Games.
If 2011 was the year that Kirani James established himself as a world-class athlete, in 2012 he stamped his name as potentially the greatest track and field athlete to have emerged from the small islands of the Eastern Caribbean.
His overall body of work as a senior may still not have surpassed the achievements of Kim Collins of St. Kitts and Nevis but he is certainly in the conversation. After placing a disappointing 6th in the 400 metres at the World Indoor Championships in March James lost only one other race all year. His victory at the Olympic Games in London was significant on a number of fronts. It represented the first medal of any kind not only for Grenada but for the whole OECS.
His 43.94 clocking was the fastest time his 20th birthday ever recorded by an athlete not from the U. S. A. He also became the second athlete to have won the 400 metres before his twentieth birthday. James will become the first OECS athlete to have topped the world’s statistical rankings in his/her event at year’s end.James’ longtime comrade-at-arms Rondell Bartholomew did not fare so well in 2012. A finalist in the 400 at the Daegu World Championships he lost virtually all of the 2012 season to injury, although he did try to assist in Grenada’s attempt to qualify in the 4x400 metre relay.
Another Grenadian male athlete made his mark individually in 2012 . For several years Grenadian multi-eventers had been prominent at the Carifta Games but few had gone on to great success at the senior level. Alleyne Lett, Keron Francis and Joel Phillip had all done well at the collegiate level in the United States but each had eventually specialized in an individual event. Kurt Felix seemed to be cut from a different cloth, however and seemed determined to be the first OECS athlete to qualify for a global decathlon event. He scored 8,062 points to win the NCAA Division I title and over the course of the year improved his personal best in every decathlon event but the high jump, and established national records in the pole vault indoors and out. He was on course for another national record in the Olympic event before withdrawing injured at the end of the first day.
Felix’s younger brother, Lyndon Toussaint, won the Carifta heptathlon, so there may be a trend.
Among the Grenadian women two stood out in 2012, Janelle Redhead won the 200 at the OECS Invitational in St. Kitts with a 23.21 clocking and went on to run 23.08 in finishing third in her heat at the London Games and advancing to the semi-final round.
Kanika Beckles ran times of 51.72 and then 51.95 seconds in finishing second in the 400 at the Big 12 Conference Championships. Selected for London, she was unable to compete due to injury.