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As Jamaica’s Men’s, Women’s Relay Teams Prepare for Doha…

Jamaica’s perforSteph-McPhInsidemance at the 125thPenn Relays in the US has left me with food for thought: the status of its sprinters.

Victory by the women in the USA vs the World 4x100m was expected, considering that Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Natasha Morrison, frontloaded the running order and the other two were no slouch.

Fraser-Pryce, who has been training in earnest to return to the speed of her pre-motherhood years, led off the team with her usual rocket start and handed over to Morrison, her former club mate, who established herself as a formidable second-leg runner when she gave Daphne Schippers and Allison Felix a run for their money in the final of the sprint relay at the 2015 IAAF World Track and Field Championships. No opponent on her leg at Penns could match her as she sprinted away to extend Jamaica’s lead and pass the baton to club mate Sasha-Lee Forbes, who is no newcomer but is known more for her 200m exploits. Forbes did not yield an inch, and veteran Shillonie Calvert-Powell finished the job to win in 43.19secs.

Their performance shows that Jamaica is well positioned to defeat the British and American women at the Doha World Championships in September with the inclusion of Elaine Thompson, the versatile and experienced Shericka Jackson and any of the island’s young rising stars. Key, however, will be how quickly their baton goes through the exchange zone as a lousy change will undermine foot speed.

In recent times, the British women seems to have safe but okay passes, and with Dina Asher-Smith in the mix, they could be a danger to Jamaica and the USA, who usually have more horsepower but less-than-smooth changes at all three zones.

The performance of the men on the other hand tells me that they have not found their rhythm since the retirement of Usain Bolt. Jamaica fielded two teams: Nesta Carter, a member of the world record team with Bolt, Julian Forte, Rasheed Dwyer, and Nigel Ellis on the Green squad and Javaughn Minzie, Chadic Hinds, Kenroy Anderson, and Chad Walker on the Gold. Neither teams finished among the top three but placed fourth and fifth, respectively behind USAx2 and Canada.

Somewhat concerning are their times of 39.26 and 39.84, relatively slow clockings when we recall that Mario Forsythe, Yohan Blake, Marvin Anderson, and Bolt ran 37.90 to set the Penn Relays record in 2010.

The argument that it’s early in the season and athletes will peak for the Jamaica Trials in June is countered by the fact that it’s also early for the women who will be peaking for Trials. Though I haven’t spotted any male athlete to shout about, one glimmer of hope showed up this week when Yohan Blake ran below 10 seconds without strong competition. Even so, the men have yet to give any inking that they will be a force at the World Championships.

The performance of the women in the longer relay is similar to that of their 4×1 counterparts, and there’s a silver lining on the men’s horizon.

The depth Jamaica has on the female side allowed for two teams to be entered, and the quartets took full advantage to show their status by running away with the top spots. In the men’s case, the race anchored by the young and inexperienced Anthony Carpenter, who was passed by two teams in the homestretch, is not be a true reflection of what they can do in the 4×4 on the world stage. The inclusion of rising stars Akeem Bloomfield, Nathan Allen, and Javon Francis should lift their game tremendously.

Ja-AnchoInsideThe haze we are in now may begin to clear up this weekend (11thand 12th), when many senior athletes compete at the World Relays in Japan and subsequently on the Diamond League circuit. The picture will definitely become crystal clear at the national trials in June, when all hopefuls at home and overseas fight for spots on Jamaica’s team to Doha in September.

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