Bermuda looking for major medal haul at next month’s CARIFTA Games
There should be no doubt about Bermudian athletics again being on the rise.
The instances of the Island’s hosting of the USATF Bermuda Championships and thousands found in attendance for the child-laden Skyport Electric Mile last weekend, provide ample proof of the sport’s renewed popularity.
Yet, while buoyed by the success of the recent, endorsed ‘club’ event, the Bermuda National Athletics Association (BNAA) are hopeful that the prosperity enjoyed on home soil was but a preamble to significant achievement on the international front, specifically at this year’s CARIFTA Games, set for Nassau, Bahamas.
The BNAA recently selected a 29-strong team – comprising 14 girls and 15 boys – to represent the Island at the 50th anniversary edition of CARIFTA, the region’s premier youth tournament and there is expectation of the group achieving a much greater medal haul, than the three – two bronze and a silver – reaped last year.
BNAA president Freddie Evans, for one, has high hopes for the squad, when it departs next month for the Lucayan Archipelago, with the Games due to commence on Good Friday, April 7 and run until Easter Monday, April 10.
“I am very excited,” said Evans. “We have a team mixed with a lot of veterans, if you will.
“We have kids like Sancho Smith, Shayla Cann Sanna Rae Morris and and Khazi Sealey, who give us a lot of leadership, in having been there before and having being successful.
“We also have included a lot of youth and first timers, so we are excited about the make-up of the squad.
Prime among the team are a trio of 14-year-old female middle-distance runners, brimming with potential, which includes the likes of Jaeda Grant, Azari Jones and Amaris Munya, each of whom demonstrated their readiness in earning podium places at the recent Speed Capital Outdoor Invitational in South Florida.
“We have these 14-year-old girls who have this opportunity, which bodes well for our sustainability,” said Evans of the ‘triplets’. They are tough individuals.
“They are tenacious on the track and it’s going to be exciting to see.”
While all have shown ability beyond their age, Grant, in particular stands out as a medal prospect and star on the rise and has the hardware – a silver for her part on the 2022 Under-17 girls 4×400 metres relay quartet – to prove such.
Even at her tender age Grant is considered a veteran and with this responsibility comes enhanced expectations off the teenager, who appears ready to explode in the international athletics arena.
“I really believe that Jada will be a real star in athletics,” said Evans, even as he sought to tone down any presupposition of greatness. “But I don’t want to get too far down the pathway.
“She has a great work ethic. She studies athletics, as well as being a strong academically at school.
“She knows what she wants to do. She takes care of her nutrition. She takes care of her stretching she takes care of her physio … she’s dynamic.”
Grant aside, the president made no bones about the stated goal being that of reaping spoils that would again stamp Bermuda as a regional member to be revered and cautioned against when being contested in the realm of track and field.
“We are going there seeking medals,” was the frank assessment forwarded by Evans. “That’s why they play the game … to win and get medals, so that’s our intention.
“But, you have to see this on the day. You have to go out there and compete.
“Nothing’s given, nothing is promised.
“There are many athletes from all the countries that are considered medal contenders and many contenders from many countries may or may not win on that day.
“Back when Ranalda Swan was in his first CARIFTA Games and ran a 400, he ran past everybody and came out of nowhere. “He hadn’t run that time before, but he ran it on that day. So, those kind of things will happen.”
Additional medal hopefuls and presumed contenders among the unit include Sancho Smith, a freshman at Clayton State University in Georgia, Morris, Jake Brislane and Tajahri Rogers.
Morris, who will line up in the 200, 400 and 4×400, will be attempting to restore memories of Bermuda’s sprinting past, when the likes of Debbie Hunter (Jones), Candy Williams (Ford), Mike Sharpe, Gregory (Ribs) Simons, Calvin Dill presided.
Smith is being coached by a Bahamian, who, no doubtm, will have him charged and ready to perform in the teacher’s homeland. Projected to shoulder a heavy load while taking in the 800, 1500, 3000 and 4×100 relay, Rogers will need to get issues relative to his passport sorted before he is allowed to travel south, while Brislane has afforded the sole focus of the 5000. Brisland is to be joined in the 5K by Kallan Richardson, who gave a stirring, solo performance at the end of last Saturday’s Skyport sponsored event, when he surged under the qualifying standard, which was only marred by the fact that all but a handful of the many spectators left by the time he broke the tape in a personal best time of 16 minutes, 25.62 seconds, Said Evans:
“If healthy, Sanna Rae will be in contention. Jake Bislane should be in contention. Tajahri Rogers, the kid, if he gets his passport straightened out, should be in contention. There’s also Jake Smith, so we have the potential to do a lot of stuff.
“One thing is that we are grateful for is the corporate and public support that we’re getting.
“The coaches will be winding their athletes’ bodies up to compete at the fastest and highest levels, relative to the distances. “The sprinters would be doing a lot of 150s and 300s, while the longer distance runners will be working on some speed work.
“Devon Bean and his people are athletic scientists, so they’ll put it together.”
The Bermuda based members of the squad are set to depart Bermuda, to be met in Bahamas by those stationed overseas.
The youngsters will be accompanied by coaches Devon Bean, Jerome Richards, Janine Scott and Terrylyn Paynter, along with former national coach Gerry Swan, as manager, and physiotherapist Norbert Simons, a former track athlete and recently retired, former Director of Youth and Sport.
The Squad (with disciplines):
Jaeda Grant (1500m, 800m)
Ellise Dickinson (200m, 400m, 4x400m relay)
Fenella Wightman (1500m & 3000m)
Arima Turner (100m, 200m & 4x100m relay)
Pria Wilson (100m & 4x100m relay)
Lashee Jones (4x400m relay & 400m)
J’Naz Richards (4×100 relay)
Azari Jones (4x400m relay)
Amaris Munya (4x400m relay)
Miles Outerbridge (100m, 200m & 4x100m relay)
Daylen Scott (200m, 400m & 4×100 relay)
Tajahri Rogers (1500m, 800m, 3000m & 4×100 relay)
Cameron Adkins (3000m)
Jake Smith (1500m)
Kyah Richardson (100m & 4×100 relay)
Shayla Cann (400m, 800m & 4x400m relay)
Sanaa Rae Morris (200m, 400m & 4x400m relay)
I’aura Golding (110m hurdles & 4x400m relay)
Zenji Washington (100m, 200m & 4x400m relay)
Kesay Bell (shot & javelin)
Khazi Sealy (5000m, 1500m & 4x400m relay)
Sancho Smith (800m & 4x400m relay)
Jake Brislane (5000m)
J’Auza James (Octathlon)
Simeon Hayward (800m & 4x400m relay)
Denver Tucker (100m & 200m)
Seer Carey (4×400 relay)
Razai Garland (Javelin)
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Photo courtesy of the RG