Three Bermuda athletes reached qualifying standards for the Carifta Games in Bahamas in April, in a track meet against the University of Western Ontario at the National Sports Centre on Saturday.
Ashley Irby, who qualified last year for her first Carifta Games but could not compete because of a leg injury, was the first to qualify when she ran a good tactical race in the 1,500 metres to win in 4min 56.03sec, comfortably under the qualifying time of 5:00 for the under-20s. Later, she was joined by high jumpers Sakari Famous and Elisha Darrell who achieved under-20 marks of 1.63 and 1.95 metres respectively.
“I knew last year I passed the same mark in four minutes and I knew if I was a little bit ahead of that then I would be on target,” Irby said. She also qualified for the 3,000 metres last year, but does not know if she will go for that event again this time.
“I’m not sure yet, my focus was mainly on the 1,500 but it would be nice to get another race,” she added.
Irby was running a close race with Western Ontario’s Kate Current for the first two laps before she took the lead with a lap and a half to go after Current got slowed down by an asthma attack and had to settle for third place behind Bermuda’s Tilly Norman, who clocked 5:12.95 with Current finishing in 5:13.02.
Famous, who has won five Carifta medals, made certain of another appearance at the Games when she had a leap of 1.70 metres to finish first ahead of Canada’s Devyn MacKenzie, who also had a best leap of 1.70 before both failed in their attempts at 1.75.
Emilia Grala and Shaelyn Laurie, of Western Ontario, were third and fourth with jumps of 1.60 and 1.55, to finish ahead of local pair Amelia Othman and Miniya Wainwright, aged just 14 and 15 respectively.
Darrell, inspired by the performance of Famous, achieved his qualifying mark with a leap of 1.95 metres which placed him third behind Locky Butcher, of Canada, who had a winning leap of 2 metres. Cameron Fox of Bermuda also had a leap of 1.95 metres to finish second.
Both Darrell and Fox failed in their bids to clear the bar at two metres, but Rohaan Simons, the high jumping coach, is pleased nonetheless
“Not bad at all, with the conditions and the way we were training in the weather prior to the meet,” he said. “I was expecting it was going to be slightly difficult. Sakari made light work of it, Elisha had his ups and downs, but I was proud of both of them.
“That was the first thing I wanted, for them to qualify first, even ugly. I wanted to make sure they booked their tickets early, then we can fine tune and tweak anything they need to tweak so that they can be ready for March.”
Simons is excited for Famous, who heads to the Unviersity of Georgia in the autumn on a full scholarship.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for her, this is what she has been working towards,” he said. “We sat down and talked and made sure this was the goal. Thankfully they are putting their faith in her. She is a coach’s dream as I’ve said before, comes to training with a positive attitude and wants to succeed. She’s on a good path and is an excellent student, the one thing I don’t have to worry about with her.”
Simons added; “We have a few more right on the fringe, Amelia Othman is poised to qualify in the next track meet. We have a couple of young athletes who I have my eye on who I know can definitely make Carifta in the Under-17s.”
In the women’s 600 metres, Kayla Raymond edged out fellow Bermudian Quinnae Outerbridge to win the 600 metres in 1:42.07, Outerbridge clocking 1:43.27.
Another exciting duel saw Johndell Cumberbatch beat Quincy Kuzyk in a sprint finish in the 1,500 metres. Cumberbatch finished in 4:29.99 and Kuzyk in 4:30.32.
Tre Houston won the 60 metres final ahead of Western Ontario’s Michael Chan. Houston clocked 6.90 seconds and Chan 7.08 seconds to finish second ahead of Bermudian pair Stephan Dill and Deneo Brangman who finished in 7.09 and 7.14 respectively.
Taylor Stewart and Butcher were first and second in the 60 metres hurdles final while college mates Katie Zohorsky and Claire Millard were first and second in the women’s 60 metres hurdles final.
“It was a really good experience for our athletes to get into the competitive mode and ready for our season at home,” Vickie Croley, the Western Ontario coach, said. “We had some outstanding performances, particularly in the high jump where we had a girl [MacKenzie] jump 1.70, which tied her PB, and a boy [Butcher] jump two metres.
“She was really happy as it probably qualifies her for the standard for our nationals, which is 1.71 but they will go with the top twelve in the country.
“We had positive wins, we were competing against athletes that we normally don’t and the interaction between our athletes and your athletes was quite energetic and positive. With the music it was a really nice atmosphere,
“We also brought two former national team athletes with us who are post-collegiate athletes. Taylor Stewart, a decathlete, competed in the hurdles and high jump, and Caroline Ehrhardt who does triple jump.
“She is trying to make the World indoors while Taylor has unofficially been named to the Commonwealth Games team.”