Reflections On The Leading Sports Stories Of 2016

Jamaica's Jaheel Hyde leads the BVI's Kyron McMaster and the USA's Taylor McLaughlin as they head toward the final hurdle. Photo: Mireille Sankatsing-Smith

Jamaica’s Jaheel Hyde leads the BVI’s Kyron McMaster and the USA’s Taylor McLaughlin as they head toward the final hurdle. Photo: Mireille Sankatsing-Smith

By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway

From the territory claiming its first International Association of Athletics Federations  (IAAF) medal to the passing of sporting icon A.O. Shirley, 2016 was another year of sports where our athletes had breakthrough performances. Here are some of the top events of the year

McMaster wins IAAF medal and Henry medals in NACAC U23

After 30 years of participating, Kyron McMaster won the territory’s first medal in its history at the IAAF World Jr. Championships, when he claimed 400m Hurdles bronze in July in Bydgoszcz, Poland. The BVI has been participating in IAAF World Jr. competition since 1986.

The long striding McMaster placed third behind Jamaica’s Jaheel Hyde who successfully defended his title in 49.03 seconds—becoming the first two times winner—and the USA’s Taylor McLaughlin, who passed him just before the line for silver, in a personal best of 49.45 as he grabbed third place with a personal best and National Record, 49.56.

“Coming through the last three hurdles, I took a look at the field to see what position I was in and my intent was to stay in medal contention by any means and I prevailed with that,” McMaster said. “I was in second until the last hurdle and couldn’t feel my legs but at the same time, I had to keep mentally focused and run through it.”

Through early May, McMaster wasn’t even thinking about World Juniors. As a student at Central Arizona and winning the Jr. Colleges Indoor 400m title in March, he turned his focus on competing in the Carifta Games but missed the meet and the outdoor season after Doctors told him not to run because of a lower back stress fracture.

“Not being able to compete outdoors, really affected me,” he said. “When I came home, my coach (Dag Samuels) began working with me. We had a meeting and he said ‘let’s do this. Let’s go World Juniors.’ And I said ‘coach, you know the situation.’ At that moment, I couldn’t run. Within a week, Coach worked on me, got me to the point where I could be able to train, then to the point where I could compete and then qualify, so he played an important role and I thank him for that.”

Henry’s firsts

Strongman Eldred Henry used his experience from missing the podium two years ago in Canada, to land Discus Throw and Shot Put bronze medals, during the IX NACAC U23 Championships in San Salvador, El Salvador.

Henry opened his series with a 52.85m throw then recorded a season’s best 56.45m on his second attempt to secure the bronze, becoming the territory’s first to win a medal in a field event. His medal was the first since sprinter Dion Crabbe won two medals in 2000.

“To be honest, I didn’t do as well as I wanted to in the Discus,” said Henry who was fourth two years ago in Kamloops, Canada. “I had a foul that would have put me in the lead, but, I was content with keeping in the ring. The difference between last time and this time is more experience, more exposure. It always feels good to win a medal but, it wasn’t the medal that I wanted. At the end of the day, I have a medal and I’m thankful for it.”

He added bronze in the Shot Put with a throw of 19.11m after placing fifth in 2014 and matched Crabbe’s two bronze medals haul 14 years ago.

St. Moose’s historic run extends USVI’s Premiers Cup dominance

A dominating run by St. Moose cemented his place in history as he became the first repeat champion in the ninth running of the Premier’s Cup at the Ellis Thomas Downs.

In the process, the St. Croix horse extended the USVI’s streak of winning the BVI’s biggest race for a sixth successive year. He posted a sixth length’s victory over debutant Integrity from St. Thomas, in the $20,000 feature race over a Mile and an 1/16. Trevelyn was the last BVI horse to claim the Premier’s Cup in 2010.

St. Moose who began seizing control of the race in front of the grand stand, romped to victory in one minute 55.2, with Integrity in tow. My Pal Shawn was the show horse while Giant Valley—who won the St. Thomas Carnival Governor’s Cup in May by beating St. Moose—was never a factor in the race.

“From the time we saw him dancing in the stables, we knew he meant business today and we had to tie him down early, give him a good chin bath and, he was still dancing and I said ‘ah ha’ that’s the Moose,” St. Moose’s owner James “Bubba” Bates said of his horse that marked the third time a St. Croix horse has won including Potter in 2013. “When he went to St. Thomas (for the Carnival races) he wasn’t dancing. We came in a little too early and when you felt you have something super, you can just take him up and go with him. But, you have to prepare him right and we didn’t prepare him right for that race in St. Thomas.”

Four at Rio Olympic Games

Sprinter Ashely Kelly and veteran Tahesia Harrigan-Scott automatically qualified for the Rio Olympic Games while Eldred Henry got a wild card entry and Elinah Phillip became the first swimmer to represent the territory in the Olympic Games. It was the territory’s biggest team since Atlanta, 1996. With Swimming’s debut, it became the third sport to represent the territory at the Olympic Games, joining Sailing and Athletics.

Harrigan-Scott in her 3rd Olympic Games, finished her 100m in 11.54 seconds while Kelly was fifth in her 200m heat in 23.61 seconds. Henry had an unlooked for throw of 17.07m in the Shot Put.

Phillip made her swimming debut in 26.26 seconds to place third in her heat.

BVI wins 2nd OECS Track and Field Championships as more records fall

On the strength of its women’s team, hosts BVI landed the 2nd OECS Track and Field Championships in a close battle with St. Kitts-Nevis and Grenada at the A. O. Shirley Grounds.

The BVI amassed 183 points to claim the title. St. Kitts-Nevis edged Grenada by a point for second place—176-175. The BVI was also the top team in the Women’s Division with 129 points, followed by Grenada with 81 and St. Lucia who earned 58. St. Kitts-Nevis garnered 139 points for the Men’s Division top honors. Grenada followed with 94 and St. Vincent and the Grenadines gained 84 for third place.

In all, over the two days of competition, 22 Championships Records and 19 All Comers Records were established.

Among the major highlights, the Women’s 4x100m Relay team of Ashley Kelly, Tahesia Harrigan-Scott, Chantel Malone and Karene King, capped a record setting Day 1 by breaking the seven-year old OECS mark established by St. Kitts-Nevis in 2009.

With non OECS member Puerto Rico in the mix, the BVI foursome pushed them to a Puerto Rican National Record of 43.43 seconds, to break their six-year old mark of 43.46. The BVI finished in 43.45 seconds—their first time under 44.00—and in the process wiped out St. Kitts-Nevis’ OECS Record of 43.53. Puerto Rico’s time erased the three-year old All Comers Record of 43.97 seconds set by Canada in 2013.

A.O. Shirley passes on

Alexander. O. Shirley, one of the BVI’s sporting icons and the first sportsman to have a ground named in his honor, passed away in early January. He was 89.

After 54 years of unwavering commitment, sacrifice, and dedication to Cricket, he retired from the sport in January 1998. He returned to the helm of the BVI Cricket Association as the body’s fifth president exactly seven years after he ended an illustrious career as player, administrator and had the New Recreation Grounds renamed the A. O. Shirley Recreation Grounds in his honor, in June 1988.

In the late 60s, Shirley—who served as the BVI’s Accountant General from 1967 through his retirement in 1987 as part of 41 years in the public service—asked the Administrator about obtaining a piece of property for cricket, which eventually became the New Recreation Grounds. The sport was housed there for 36 years, before work began on putting down a 400 meters Mondo athletic facility in 2005. Softball was also played there from 1971-79.

Virgin Gorda Eagles soar

The unbeaten Virgin Gorda Eagles completed their inaugural season in Division B by sweeping Vixens in three sets, 25-22, 25-15 and 25-14. They swept all opponents en route to the title.

“We had the confidence, worked hard in practice and when we came out, we came out to dominate,” pointed out Captain Yvette MVP Harley, adding that sweeping opponents was special. “It felt so good doing that. When we came to play, as we were winning all our games, our mind was set because we didn’t want to lose a game, so we came and and did what we had to do.” They will move up to Division A next season and Harley said they’ll have to do a lot more as their aim will also be to win the title.

“It will take a lot of practice, working together and listening to the coach,” she pointed out. “Teams in the A Division are good teams and I’ve played with them before so we’ll have to work and play hard.”

Digicel NBA Elite Basketball Camp

After three intense days at the Digicel NBA Elite Camp at the Multipurpose Sports Complex, 13 of the 63 players from nine Caribbean countries, advanced to an NBA authentic experience in New York, December 6-11, including four from host BVI and four from Bermuda.

Among the five girls, Shaliquah Fahie and Mahkayla Pickering of the BVI will be joined by the Barbados duo of Tower Lorde and Ivanna Odle as well as Bermuda’s Ish-Nae Smith.

The eight boys are Demoi Bradley and Omar Walker of the BVI; Cruzan born Remey Brewer of Trinidad and Tobago; Antigua and Barbuda’s Anthony Greer; Bermuda’s trio of Kobie Reid, Colin Peters and Jarel Smith and Turks and Caicos Islands’ Wilkins Sylvain.

“There was a lot of talent here—lots of talented basketball players—and it has been great to have the girls a part of this,” said Troy Justice, the NBA Sr. Director, basketball operations international. “It was hard to select the top players. It wasn’t clear cut. The talent varied on all levels. It was interesting to see how it played out.”

Former San Antonio Spurs power forward and seven times NBA champion Robert Horry—just one of two players in history to win NBA titles with three different teams including the Rockets, Lakers and Spurs—is also an NBA legend and commentator. He was joined at the camp by WNBA Dallas Wings (formerly the Tulsa Shock), two times All Stars guard Skylar Diggins and former NBA champion and Brooklyn Nets Coach Lionel Hollins.

Boxing saw the ‘Clash of the Irons’ twice

Boxing returned to the territory with fighters from Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, US. Virgin Islands and hosts BVI competing in the Clash of the Irons I & II, featuring Julan “Iron Fist” Brown vs Miguel “Iron Dog” Ray.

During their first matchup in August, Brown stunned Ray in the first round, staggered him in the second and by one minute and 36 seconds into the third round, referee Milton Creque stopped the fight.

In their December rematch, Ray was on the canvas several times but always got up and gave Brown more work to do, during an eight rounds.

“I didn’t expect this fight to go eight rounds, I expected it to go one round,” Brown who was cut over his right eye by Ray and was examined by the ringside doctor said. “I stopped him in the third round the last time and the referee felt sorry for him after he went down several times and stopped the fight, but he surprised me tonight. I expected him to go down and stay down, but the dude is tough—he’s really an Iron Dog. He caught me some good ones, but it’s the effective one that worked for me”

Ray who lost 68-79, 70-77 and 72-78, said he conditioned himself better this time around and was a little more focused.

“I had some good people in my corner giving me props on how to really approach him as a fighter. He’s really good. He’s fast and has some cheeky moves but I think I got some clean hard and cheeky punches on him that should have taken down a Lion,” Ray said. “But, the Dog still stood up and completed his eight rounds. It’s just to wait now for the next bout, whenever, whomever, wherever.”