By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
Athletes used Saturday’s Dag Samuels Development Series meet as a measuring stick to see how their off season program has helped their development for the new season. A nervous Talent Ex Track Club’s Ashleigh Penn, opened her season in the 300m Hurdles.
“When I went in the race, I didn’t want to use my blocks either, but I just set them up and tried my best not to trip, but to attack every approach and felt like I did well,” Penn, in the second year of hurdling told Island Sun Sports, adding that she has learned a lot. “I feel like I really came a really long way, from not having correct form, not knowing what to do properly. Not using my arms and today I felt like I executed, that’s all thanks to coach (Burt) Dorsette.”
Penn, the daughter of Athletics Association General Secretary, Stephanie Russ Penn who likes the hurdles, didn’t have a background in track like her mother who ran the 400 and 800m. While completing community service hours with the association, something clicked.
“I was like, I should try this, maybe I’ll be good at this,” she reflected. “So I came and here I am.”
Teammate S’Ryiah Mitcham, who prefers the shorter hurdles, said she felt like the wind was holding her back. “I thought I wasn’t going to get over it,” she said of running into a headwind. “Other than that it was alright. I was working on getting through the race as I’m accustomed to the shorter hurdles, so this is something new to me so I was just trying to get a feel of it.”
Jelani Croal set the early pace in the Open 600m, but it was Tyreese James overhauling Coral Jonathan Lynch and Top Notch teammate M’Kori Crabbe, to win in 1 minute 23.28.
“In the beginning of the race was a little challenging for me because that’s not the strongest part of my race, but I was told not to be too far behind, stay close to the pack until the end, which I know is usually the strongest part of my race,” James explained. “I gave it all I had. Coming home, I was lining up with Jelani and Jonathan and Mook (Crabbe) was ahead of us, so my goal was just to catch him and at least pass him.”
Lynch who was third in 1:24.46 later won the U20 Boys 300m in 36.84, said he rant the 600 the way he planned to.
“I hit the time the coach wanted me to hit,” he said. “On the home stretch, I just tried to relax and held on.”
Croal, who faded to 1:28.07 for fourth said that he went out too hard. “I didn’t have enough endurance to take me home,” said Coral, just 43 points shy of a bronze medal in last year’s Carifta Games Octathlon. “I tried to get out in front, stay ahead of the pack and tried to not let them catch me.”
After winning the 300m, Kenyatta Grate said her aim was to get out over the first 30m, work on her form and push herself over the last 100. “Then it was making my way home, working on my form, my legs and staying tall,” she said. “Right now, Coach (Willis Todman) is teaching me to swing from my shoulders and making sure I can see my thumb and when my hand’s going back, making sure it’s going by my pocket.”
Wanyae Belle won the 300m in 34.24 second before taking the 150m in 16.10 and was pushed by Malik John in 34.70 and 16.35 in both races, then said it was like a training session and test day. “I came out trying to run a personal best,” he said, noting that John kept him pushing. “That motivated me to run even faster, because I really wanted it.”
Belle—just the 2nd U20 Boys Carifta Games 100m finalist and 3rd 200m finalist during the 2022 Carifta Games, then went on to the World Athletics Championships, said he’s looking forward to “some big personal bests and staying healthy.”
Carifta High Jump bronze medalist Jah’Kyla Morton won the U17 Girls 60m in 9.12 seconds and was second in the 600m in 1:56.31. “The first 200 was very well executed,” Morton noted of the 600. “Coming around the back stretch, my whole body started to tighten up, so I couldn’t go any faster, but I told myself I cannot stop, I have to finish the race, even though I’m feeling the lactic acid building up.”
Morton said her preparation for Carifta is going well. She has dropped the Long Jump and added the hurdles as her second event.