By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
Set in lane eight, Jaleel Croal exploded from the blocks, ran a scintillating curve, didn’t allow any of his pursuers to erode his edge on the straight, then punched his right fist in the air as he crossed the line in 21.43 seconds, to win the U17 Boys 200m at the 48thCarifta Games in the Cayman Islands on Sunday night, marking the first time that a BVI athlete had ever won a track and field sprint gold medal since the territory’s debut 43 years ago.
Croal, who also became the first U17 Boys 100m medalist on Saturday night, led the team home with one gold, three silver and three bronze medals, for its most successful sojourn in its history, surpassing the four silver and four bronze medals of the 2013 delegation.
It was also a trip loaded with history, with other firsts including the first time a team that won a medal in all three days of competition and the first Girls sprint medal in the 200m when Beyonce DeFreitas grabbed bronze.
To put Croal’s feat in context, it’s necessary to reflect. Only three athletes before him—Dean Greenaway, in 1978, Keita Cline in 1990 and Rikkoi Brathwaite in 2018, had ever made an U20 or U17 Boys 200m sprint final, with Cline claiming bronze, Greenaway placing seventh after earning 400m silver—the territory’s first medal in 1978—and Brathwaithe was also seventh.
Last year, Croal who didn’t even make the 200m final, became just the territory’s third 100m finalist ever and finished fifth. He joined Derwin Scatliffe, U17 Boys in 1987, Brathwaite, U18 Boys in 2016-(U18 was contested 2014-2016) then U20 Boys in 2017 and in 2018 when he grabbed 100m bronze, ending a 42-year sprint drought as the only boys who had been finalists.
“It means a lot and I’m so happy,” Croal said after snatching gold in his favorite race, following a 100m bronze in 10.80 seconds on Saturday, the first in the U17 division since the territory’s 1976 debut. “In qualifying, it gave me a boost that I had a chance to get a medal for the BVI. From the start of the race, I was saying drive, drive, drive. I did that and executed it throughout the whole race.”
Asked when he knew he had it won, Croal said with 50m left, he didn’t see the Jamaicans or anyone else.
“I ran through the line and couldn’t believe it at all, but, it felt very good,” he said., noting that the 400m was instrumental in his preparations. “My coach used that to build my confidence in my races, the 100 and 200 and I became confident when I ran 50.19.”
In the 100m where he got bronze, Croal said it was simply amazing. “But, I worked hard for it,” he said, noting that he saw Djimon Gumbs got U20 bronze in the Shot Put, Akrissa Eristee, U17 Girls 400m silver and Khybah Dawson, U17 Boys Long Jump silver. “I wanted to add one to the team so I went out and did that. The main thing that was on my mind, was to execute my drive, when I came off my drive, push hard and I did that and I surprisingly came third.”
Immediately after Croal’s 200m gold, DeFreitas ran 23.79 seconds to snatch U20 Girls bronze.
“It means a lot as I’ve been working hard for this for about five years now and I finally got the medal,” DeFreitas said. “In the heats, I didn’t finish as strong as I normally do, so in the final I had to make sure I finish as strong as I could.
Djimon Gumbs opened the medal haul with an U20 Boys Shot Put bronze on Saturday morning., with a 54.76m heave.
“It feels good knowing that I made the BVI proud, made myself proud, setting the tone for these young guys out here, definitely feels good.” he said.
Twin Brother Diamante was fourth with 52.85. Diamante was also fourth in the Shot Put with a heave of 17.05m, while Djimon settled for seventh with a 15.52m mark.
In the U17 Girls 400m final, Akrissa Eristee earned silver with a personal best of 54.10 seconds, and moved to No 6 All Time, after running 55.32 in the semis.
“It feels really good,” said Eristee, a 2018 finalist. “I got out as hard as possible, maintained it down the back stretch and started to make my way home.”
Kaelyaah Liburd finished eight, in 58.47 seconds, after advancing with 56.99.
Khybah Dawson made his debut with a Long Jump personal best leap of 6.83m, missing gold by one centimeter, to earn silver.
“When I’m in the BVI, the second jump is always my best jump, so after I fouled the first one, I just got into my little mode and the second was better than the first,” he said. ”It means a lot, making my father proud, my grandparents at home and my mother proud.”
Jahtivya Williams anchored the U17 Girls 4x400m Relay to a silver medal, fending off Trinidad and Tobago’s Natasha Fox at the line as Fox fell, to win by .02 seconds, in 3 minutes, 44.89 seconds, the No 6 All Time mark. Eristee led off, Liburd was on second leg, and Ariyia Smith third as they battled with Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Bermuda.
Elsewhere, Arianna Hayde improved her Heptathlon National Record from 4197 points to a personal best of 4424, with a fifth placed finish.
“It was hard without the necessary training for this event,” said Hayed in her first Hep since 2017. ”It was hard trying score what I wanted to score in each event.”
Debutant Palesa Caesar recorded and U17 Girls Discus Throw personal best of 37.06m and finished sixth. Orlando Douglas fouled out of the competition in this U17 Boys Discus.
Josh Hill had non advancing times of 48.84 seconds and 21.39 seconds wind aided, in the U20 Boys 400m and 200m respectively.
Chaz Fahie made his U20 Boys 800m debut in a non advancing seventh place time of 2 minutes, 01.71 seconds.
The 4x100m Relay quartet of Amia Todman, Williams, A’Keela McMaster and Smith, placed fifth in 47.75 seconds.