Slow trip down mem­ory lane

Jamaica Gleaner - - SPORTS - Hu­bert Lawrence has made notes at track side since 1980.

RE­CENT NEWS of an hon­our for ven­er­a­ble Ex­cel­sior High School and San Jose State Univer­sity su­per­hero Neville My­ton will send vet­eran ob­servers on a slow trip down mem­ory lane.

Fifty-four years ago, My­ton ce­mented his claim for a spot on the 1964 Olympic team with a nippy world ju­nior record run of 1 min­utes 47.2 sec­onds for 880 yards. Fast-for­ward to 2016. Con­verted to a met­ric equiv­a­lent of 1 minute 46.5 sec­onds, that mark has My­ton, once la­belled ‘the in­domitable run­ning man’, still on the all-time Ja­maican 800m top 10 per­for­mance list all th­ese years later.

It’s re­mark­able that, in those days be­fore syn­thetic tracks, a school­boy could run that fast. My­ton was re­mark­able. He dom­i­nated the 880 and the mile at Boys’ Cham­pi­onships and is still the only Ja­maican to win the Penn Re­lays high-school mile.

His perch, by my count, as the 10th-fastest Ja­maican 800m man of all time isn’t in dan­ger. No Ja­maican has bro­ken 1 minute and 47 sec­onds since Ald­wyn Sap­ple­ton did in 2009. Jowayne Hib­bert and Ri­cardo Cun­ning­ham have come rea­son­ably close in re­cent sea­sons and Hib­bert, a 1.47.12 man, has the po­ten­tial to go even faster. Still, My­ton’s time is look­ing to have se­cure ten­ancy in the top 10 for a while to come.

Sey­mour New­man’s na­tional record of 1 minute 45.21 sec­onds is look­ing as safe as houses. Talk of over­seas coach­ing con­sul­tan­cies has faded, but my guess is that coach­ing isn’t the core prob­lem. I reckon our love of sprint­ing has drawn coach­ing and ath­letic tal­ent away from the 800m, where Arthur Wint and Ge­orge Kerr, be­tween them, won three Olympic medals.

Our best man in the event since those days was 1995 world in­door cham­pion Clive Ter­re­longe. He stands be­hind New­man and 1968 and 1969 NCAA cham­pion By­ron Dyce on the all-time list at 1 minute 45.47 sec­onds.

The suc­cess of Us­ain Bolt, Yo­han Blake, Asafa Pow­ell, et al, has made the 100m so at­trac­tive that it has be­come hard to re­sist. Any­one with any ba­sic speed dreams of 9.58.


Add to that the re­sis­tance of our 400m men to mov­ing up when their prime one-lap days are over, and New­man could be na­tional record holder for years to come.

His­tory is in­struc­tive. Wint, Kerr and New­man were dy­na­mite over 400m, with Sir Arthur win­ning gold in the 400m at the 1948 Olympics and Kerr tak­ing the Pan-Amer­i­can Games ti­tle in 1959. Ter­re­longe, Mario Ver­non-Wat­son, Alex Mor­gan, who are also in the top 10, and My­ton all were solid 4x400 men.

Our coaches are bril­liant and, if any group can help Ja­maica spread its forces into ‘new’ ath­letic dis­ci­plines, they can. My guess is that they will soon start to usher some of the 400-me­tre men out to the two-lap­per.

To my eye, there are two tall men whose spindly frames and long strides sug­gest they could travel well over 800m. They are 2015 in­ter­col­le­giate 400m cham­pion Jo­nia McDon­ald and former JC high jumper Fitzroy Dunk­ley.

Let me be clear. McDon­ald and Dunk­ley both have more to give at 400m. Dunk­ley, now just out of col­le­giate eli­gi­bil­ity at Louisiana State Univer­sity, is a re­cent con­vert to sprint­ing and has only been run­ning the 400m for three sea­sons. McDon­ald could be one of those gems MVP ge­nius Stephen Fran­cis un­earths and moves from zero to hero.

Even so, I hope they keep their op­tions open and at some point, carry their speed to an event that could fit them per­fectly.

I reckon our love of sprint­ing has drawn coach­ing and ath­letic tal­ent away from the 800m, where Arthur Wint and Ge­orge Kerr, be­tween them, won three Olympic medals.


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