By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
(Note: This is third of a four-part series reviewing sports from 2017. The final installment will focus on tournaments.)
In the previous segments reflecting on 2017 sports, we had an examination of the major impact on sports, the effects of Hurricane Irma. The second installment focused on team sports. This segment focuses on individual sports, the bedrock of international participation.
Track and Field
In 2017, Track and Field reached new heights, even before the season was halfway done. At the collegiate level, the territory’s athletes made their marks at Conference Championships, the Junior College Championships and the NCAA Division II Championships. On the regional level, there was notable performances at the NACAC Age Group Championships and medals being won for the first time in the Commonwealth Youth Games. Additionally, three athletes—a male among them—qualified for the IAAF World Championships, marking the first time that three athletes of both sexes have attained that status.
Just as the season ended, Chief Coach Dag Samuels lost his life during the passage of Hurricane Irma and the walls around the track at the A. O. Shirley Grounds were destroyed. The surface was damaged and some of the stands blew away.
Long Jumper Chantel Malone, became the territory’s first IAAF World Championships finalist, when she finished seventh in the Long JumpDuring the indoor season, four records were established over the weekend of February 10-12. Clemson Freshman Lakeisha “Mimi” Warner, established an 800m Indoor Record of 2 minutes 09.37 seconds on February 11, a mark she later improved to 2:07.25 on February 24. That same weekend, St. Augustine Sr. Khari Herbert lowered his 400m indoor mark to 47.49 seconds before becoming the territory’s first athlete to break 47.00 indoors, with his 46.97 seconds at the NCAA Division II Championships, where he earned a silver medal in his specialty on Mach 11. He earned bronze outdoors.
Findlay Jr. Tynelle Gumbs, launched the 20 pounds Weight Throw out to 21.32m (69’11½”) in Boston on Feb 11, before earning Great Lakes Intercollegiate Conference Championships gold with a heave of 21.45m (70’4½”) on Feb 25, cracking 70 feet for the first time. She went on to snatch NCAA Division II gold in the event on March 10, with a 70 feet 3 inch effort.
Iowa Central freshman Nelda Huggins, won the National Jr. Colleges Athletics Association Championships 60m dash in 7.31 seconds, becoming the territory’s second fastest indoor performer behind Tahesia Harrigan-Scott. Huggins became the third successive JUCO individual champion, joining 400m Kyron McMaster and Weight Thrower Tynelle Gumbs in 2016. She bagged silver in the 200m after a personal best effort of 23.79 seconds.
The territory’s athletes ended the 46th Carifta Games in Willemstad, Curacao, with two silver and two bronze medals, bringing their tally over the three days of competition targeting the region’s best U18 and U20 Boys and Girls to six. It was the second best tally behind eight medals won in 2012.
After fouling his first two attempts, Djimon Gumbs who won silver in the Shot Put on his final attempt, unleashed a mammoth personal best in the third round to grab the Under 18 Boys Discus Throw silver, after placing fifth last year. Gumbs unearthed a 60.43m (198 feet 3¼ inches) effort to eclipse the 55.51m (182 feet 1½ inches) he threw earlier in the season. Twin brother Diamante was ninth with a personal best of 44.71m (146 feet 8½ inches).
“This is absolutely amazing,” Djimon said in summing up his silver medal performances. “I really wanted to throw 60 meters—that was my thinking in the plane before I took off to come here. It’s really special and means I’m in peak condition. I’ve been training and working hard and I’m glad I was able to come through today.”
Akira Phillips bagged the BVI’s second silver in the U20 Girls Javelin Throw, with her heave of 44.63m (146 feet 5 inches). Her effort smashed Raw Skillz Track Club Brittney Peters’ national mark of 42.08m (138’0¾ inches), from February 25.
Following a sixth place finish in the seven event Heptathlon, Arianna Hayde earned an U18 Girls Javelin Throw bronze medal with her opening throw of 41.90m (137 feet 5½ inches), while battling a sore arm and gusty winds that saw several of her throws landing outside the sector.
The quartet of Shyiniah Caul, L’T’Sha Fahie, Kala Penn and Sh’Kaida Lavacia combined on the U20 Girls 4x400m Relay to run 3 minutes, 53.04 seconds for the bronze. Penn, an ASA College freshman, won the other bronze in the Triple Jump
NACAC Age Group Championships
Akeela McMaster became the fourth BVI athlete since 1997, to claim an individual Pentathlon division medal at the North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACAC) Age Group Championships, formerly the CAC Age Group Championships, during the competition in Trinidad and Tobago. She also formed part of the territory’s fifth contingent to earn a team medal since 1990.
McMaster claimed the 11-12 Girls Division Pentathlon bronze medal as the territory’s athletes walked away with six medals in its best medal haul in the history of the competition dating back to 1985, as well as a team award. McMaster joined Aliston “Al” Potter, 1997; Dione Blyden, 2003 and Beyonce DeFreitas, 2013 as overall division Pentathlon medalists.
At the end of the 2-day competition, BVI athletes had two gold and four bronze medals—five of them individual medals by four different athletes—an individual overall medalist and an 11-12 Girls Team medal.
With performances in each event worth a certain amount of points, McMaster compiled 2660 points in her five events for the 11-12 Girls Division bronze. Teammate Ayana Findlay, placed seventh with 2520 points, after finishing second in her heat and third overall to secure an 800m bronze in the final event with a time of 2 minutes 32.82 seconds. McMaster began the completion by earning a bronze medal in the 60m dash with a time of 8.31 seconds. McMaster’s points and that of Findlay, earned them the 11-12 Girls Team Division bronze with a combined 5180 points.
They joined Dion Crabbe/Leighton Smith, 1990; Dione Blyden/Jevonte Croal, 2003; Kanishque Todman/Britney Wattley, 2003 and J’Nae Wong/Arianna Hayde, 2011.
With the combined scores of all the athletes, the BVI placed sixth overall with 25,374 points.
“I think the BVI team’s performance was excellent,” head coach and manager Ericca Frederick said. “I’ve travelled to the championships from 2009 and this 2017 went out there and did their best. Two records were established by Malaki Smith as this is the first time it’s the NACAC Championships as it was under Caribbean and Central American Athletics Confederation umbrella before. We had great performances from the 11-12 Pentathlon Girls. They did the BVI proud and I hope to see them in 2019 competing in the Heptathlon.”
Shaniyah Caul and Khari Herbert anchored the BVI’s Women and Men’s 4x400m Relays to victory with national record runs, capping off seven gold medals on Day 2 at the Kirani James Athletics Stadium in St. Georges, as the BVI successfully defend its OECS Track and Field Championships crown, by snatching the title from hosts Grenada.
Grenada led the competition with six gold medals after Day I, with the BVI in third behind St. Kitts and Nevis’ four, with three.
The climatic run for the title began with Ashley Kelly, who last year on home soil won the 400m title but skipped the event, won the 200m, to get the BVI medal tally rolling with a 23.98 seconds victory.
Victories by Eldred Henry who defended his Shot Put title with a throw of 18.70m (61’4¼”) then Tynelle Gumbs followed by breaking her own Discus Throw record of 47.51m (155’10½”) with a toss of 48.44m (158’11”) and twin sister Trevia was second with 45.70 (149”11½”). Tynelle, the Female Athletes of the Meet, grabbed Trevia’s Shot Put BVI national record with a 15.23m (49’11½”) effort while Trevia followed with 14.34 (47’0½”).
Kyron McMaster obliterated his 51.02 seconds 400m Hurdles meet record from 2016, stopping the clock at 48.49 seconds, a time that also broke the USA’s Qunicy Downing stadium record of 48.80, set in April.
Kala Penn, who was second to Chantel Malone’s 6.67m (21’10½”) Long Jump effort with 6.12m (20’1”), then won the Triple Jump with a bound of 12.64m (41’5¾”), pulled the BVI even with Grenada on the medal table at 8-8, setting up the relay showdown for the title.
The 4×4 quartet of Kelly, Tarika Moses, Beyonce DeFreitas and Caul, won the event in 3 minutes 34.76 seconds. The time improved the BVI’s 3:39.74 meet record and wiped out the 2009 national record mark of 3:37.62, set by Samantha John, Chantel Malone, Kelly and Dominique Maloney, in Cuba.
Grenada with a chance to tie the BVI at 9-9 in gold medals with a men’s 4×4 victory, put up a short lived fight, before the team of Ronique Todman, Tarique Moses, Adriano Gumbs and a strong anchor leg from Khari Herbert, who was second in the 400m with 46.67 seconds, powered them to victory over St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 3:11.03, -3:11.68, assuring the BVI the crown.
The time wiped out the 33 year old BVI record of 3:11.89, set by the BVI’s 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games team of Guy Hill, Jerry Molyneaux, Dean Greenaway and Lindel Hodge.
The BVI finished with 10 gold, 8 silver and 3 bronze medals while Grenada had 8 gold, four silver and seven bronze. St. Kitts-Nevis rounded out the top three with 4 gold, 5 silver and 3 bronze.
Commonwealth Youth Games
On the opening and closing days of the 6th Commonwealth Youth Games i
After overcoming his fears and fouling his first attempt, Gumbs became the first BVI athlete to earn a medal at any Commonwealth Games level since the territory began participating in 1990, when he launched a sixth round Discus Throw effort to land a bronze medal.
Gumbs, a 2017 double Carifta Games silver medalist in the Discus Throw and Shot Put, secured bronze with a throw of 56.24m (184’6½”).
“First off, I’m giving God the praise for making me accomplish this medal, Djimon said. “Going into the competition, of course, there we nerves on the first throw which I fouled but my coach told me ‘to relax’ and I did what I has to do.”
His winning throw came in the fourth round and says it means a lot.
“Winning a medal at this stage makes me feel that all the hard work pays off and no matter how difficult it could be at times, I always pull through,” he noted. “It inspires me to push toward my goals and never give up.”
When the competition came to a close, DeFreitas became the first female medalist, earning silver in the 200m, in the competition that catered to 16-17 year old athletes from six regions and 70 countries across the British Commonwealth.
DeFreitas earned her medal after running 23.88 seconds, .04 off her personal best. She opened with 25.01 to win her heat and ran 24.13 in the semis, where she was second.
“It’s really special, because at Carifta (Games), I was hoping to medal and that didn’t happen,” DeFreitas said. “I worked really hard and then got my medal at these games. My goal was to execute my race properly and get a personal best but that didn’t happen, but I still came out with a medal.”
IAAF World Championships
Chantel Malone placed seventh in the Long Jump finals with a leap of 6.57m (21 feet 6¾” inches) on her third attempt, after being temporarily in sixth place, to become the first BVI athlete to reach an IAAF World Championships final in any event.
“This year was definitely a trying year for me and a test of how badly I wanted it,” Malone said as she reflected on her 2017 season. “From being in a new program and starting the season off well, then fracturing my foot. I was not able to train on the track between May and June. Got on a flight from my Doctors office to the OECS Championships in Grenada, a meet that ultimately booked my ticket to Worlds, making it to the finals and coming seventh overall. God, thank you for being my comforter and seeing me through.”
Malone said she cried tears from the devastation and tears because of God’s love. “I’m truly blessed for this accomplishment,” she said. “Coming to the World Championships and finishing seventh in the world, that’s crazy. I beat out 25 people to get to this spot and I’m just grateful. Grateful for my supporters, family members, my coaching staff—anyone that was in my corner. I couldn’t do any of this without them.”
Ashely Kelly who lowered Malone’s 400m national record to 51.63 seconds, grabbed one of the automatic spots to the semis in 52.70 seconds and ran 54.50 in her semi. Kyron McMaster, the 400m Hurdles world leader, was disqualified after stepping on the line in his qualifying race, after running 49.70 seconds to advance to the semis. It marked the first time that all qualifiers had advanced to the semis of an IAAF World Championships event. Tahesia Harrigan-Scott was a 2009 semifinalist in the 100m.
Following his World Championships disappointment, McMaster went on to win the IAAF Diamond League Trophy by defeating all the worlds medalists, with a time of 48.07 seconds. He has three of the four fastest times run in the event this season, including 47.80 seconds, which was the fastest time in the world and ranks him No. 20 on the IAAF All Time List in the event.
After three days of competitive racing, St. Thomas’ Peter Corr’s Blitz, a King 40, won six of seven races to dominate the Racing I Division in the 46th BVI Spring Regatta, after doing the same in the St. Thomas International Regatta.
Besides Corr, the BVI’s Chris Haycraft and St. Thomas’ Fritz Bus pulled out narrow division victories.
“The key in St. Thomas, was tuning the boat and making it right and then we came over here, we had three days, we cut some sales, we tuned some things up and the results showed,” Corr explained. “We got six wins and a second. Today it was light win and we went left and I didn’t know until we crossed the line that we were second. It was so close—16 seconds—but the competition is so darn good. That’s what makes it for me.”
The BVI’s Rayne Duff capitalized on St. Thomas’ Mia Nicolosi’s miscues in her quest to become the first BVI Dinghy Championships 3-peat champion, opening the door for him to win the event.
In 2016, Nicolosi and Duff finished either first or second in every race, with Nicolosi edging Duff by a point to become a repeat champion.
This year however, everything was quite different. Nicolosi stumbled out the gate and finished 10th in the opening race, while Duff placed second. In her next race, Nicolosi had an over early and finished at the back of the pack, while Duff was again second.
Nicolosi returned with three straight bullets and two second places while Duff, whose worst finish was third, beat her in the last race of the first day, for an 11-17 advantage.
Duff went on to wrap up the regatta with three victories and finished with 17 points to Nicolosi’s 31.
Duff said he was relieved when Nicolosi messed up on the first two races.
“That was my inspiration as it was going to be a lot easier, so it allowed me to calm down and I could race a lot better even though she beat me in those last races, I just kept consistent, getting seconds and stayed ahead on points,” he explained. “On the second day, I just covered her and made sure she did not pass me for the first three races, then after that it was simple because I was far ahead.”
Nicolosi had dominated the last set of races against Duff, including winning the Back to School Regatta. “I was looking to win,” Nicolosi said. “But, I had a really bad start in the first race and an over early in the second race, I accelerated too fast. In the first race today, I didn’t do good. I’ve never really been the best at starts, but, I’m getting better.”
Hurricane Irma wiped out the Back to School Regatta in September.
Elinah Phillip was a double silver medalist at the 32nd Carifta Games Swimming Championships in Nassau, Bahamas.
Phillip, the territory’s top swimmer, grabbed silver in a scintillating 50m Butterfly in race with Martinique’s Mika Heideyer who edger by .01, 28.12-28.13. Phillip advanced to the final in what was then a Carifta record, 28.47 seconds.
“I swam a good race in the heats and it was a strong swim and I also broke the Carifta record in the heat,” noted Phillip whose total medal haul since winning four in 2014 is now seven including a 13-14 gold in the 50m Free. “In the final, I got the silver medal and a new personal best. I felt it was a strong swim and I know what I need to work on, which is my finish.”
She followed up by swimming in the 100m Freestyle, which she said is not one of her strongest races but had the fastest qualifying time into the final of 59.30 seconds. Phillip placed fifth in the final in 59.62 seconds.
“In the final, I swam a similar race to to the heat which I was very pleased with,” she said. “I feel like I’m getting a better idea of how to manage my 100m Freestyle.”
Phillip wrapped up her Carifta Swimming sojourn with a 50m Freestyle silver in one of her favorite races, finishing .04 seconds behind Trinidad and Tobago’s Arima Pilgrim, who recorded a time of 26.73 seconds to her 26.77. She advanced after a 26.67 time in the prelims.
“In the heat I swam a strong race which I thought could have been faster and I tried to adjust for the finals, but I think the fatigue from the whole competition kicked in,” she explained. “I placed second and it was a close race and a fast race just like the 50m Butterfly and I got a silver medal which I was very pleased.”
Phillip would qualify for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games at the the FINA World Championships in Indiana, after a time of 26.34 seconds in the 50m Freestyle.
“My competitive year has been difficult,” noted Phillip who lives and trains in Hertsfordshire, England. “I had an academically heavy year and as a result, did a lot less work in the pool than I usually would have in a season. So this has been more difficult to balance but rewarding in the end.”
She went on to lower her personal best and national record time to 26.19 seconds in England on December 14. She ended 2017 on a high note, recording a personal best and national record of 28.12 seconds in 50m Butterfly, after 28.35 in the prelims.