By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
Jaleel Croal hasn’t had the promising year he expected after his Jr. 200m record of 20.93 seconds in December—the BVI’s 2nd Jr. under 21.00. An injury in February during the 200m, didn’t see him racing again until the Carifta Games in Jamaica in April, where the 2019 U17 Boys 200m gold medalist and 100m bronze medalist made his name. He wasn’t a finalist in either event.
In his second race of his comeback season, Croal fended off Wanyae Belle in the 200m by .07, 21.60-21.67, to complete his double sprint national champion repeat, after warding off Mikkel Bassue in the 100m by an even narrower margin–.03—in 10.75-10.78.
“I had a lot of nerves coming in but I couldn’t let that get the best of me. I was thinking of all kinds of stuff to just relax myself,” Croal told Island Sun Sports after the 200m. “Basically, my main focus was to drive, drive, drive and finish the race. But, the last time I did a 200 in Tortola, it didn’t end well, so I was kinda hesitant coming off the curve but I got it done.”
Croal said he was ‘under pressure’ in both races because everyone is out ‘to get the top dog.’
“It’s hard to stay up (on top),” he said. “It means a lot and it’s a big thing to me—being the best in my country is a really big deal. Everybody looks up to me.”
Belle said prior to the race he was ‘very nervous’ but Coach Karene King calmed him down.
“I went out and did my thing but it wasn’t the outcome I wanted, but it is what it is,” he said. “I thought I had him at the end—the last 30 meters or so. I have to really hold my drive phase at least more than 30 meters. My start wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to hold my drive phase even more, but I don’t know what happened.”
Croal said he was looking to become national champion again and wasn’t looking for any particular time as he sees himself as starting over from the February injury and all he wanted to do was to win.
“In the 100, I was nervous but it was a very exciting race,” he noted. “Mikkel Bassue who came second, he has an exceptional start. He got out but I surprised myself. I was patient, went through my race and I got it at the end. I had pressure in every race but I like those kinds of things. I don’t like to be alone in the BVI. I like when there are others there to count on and be up there with me.”
Croal, who will attend South Florida University, is gearing up for the World Jr. Championships in Cali, Colombia in early August. He said preparations are going well and he needs to have more races under his belt.
Belle described his preparations as ‘shaky for me’ but vowed to step it up from Monday.
“It’s been up and down and I’m not hitting the times I want to, in training,” he pointed out. “From a (200m) race like this, I can go back, analyze what I did wrong and correct it in training. He’s aiming to be among the World Jr. Championships finalists.
Croal said that he’s looking forward to great competition in Cali and getting good times. “Obviously, making it to the finals would be big for me,” he said.
While he has not finalized plans, Belle said he’ll be going to college.
Other highlights from the meet, Kimberly Smith flew through the air and climbed from No 8 to No 5 on the All Time Long Jump list, with her leap of 5.95m (19’6¼”).
Elsewhere, Adaejah Hodge narrowly missed the Nike Outdoors Nationals 200m title by .04 seconds, when she ended her season on Sunday by placing second in the 200m in 23.29 seconds. She ran 23.87 to advance to the final. That came after an 11.50 seconds 3rd place 100m finish. She ran 11.70 in the prelims. Days earlier, Hodge was again 3rd in the 100m in the Brooks PR Invitational, after stopping the clock at 11.49 seconds.