US Virgin Islands (USVI), British Virgin Islands (BVI) and Dominica may be fielding relatively small teams for the 48th annual CARIFTA Games but they will be coming with big medal expectations when the Games take place during Easter weekend (20 to 22 April) at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex.
The USVI is looking to three athletes – Mikaela Smith, Ariana Edgar and Michelle Smith – for their athletic glory. Mikaela Smith, who ran 2:26.64 and Edgar with 11.23m were finalists at CARIFTA 2018 in the U20 girls’ 800m and U17 girls’ shot put respectively.
Virgin Islands Chief Youth Coach Keith Smith said their training has been going well, and they are aiming to improve on their performances. Coach Smith also has high hopes for his young talent Michelle Smith, who is a medal contender in the U17 girls’ 1500m. The 14-year old is now able to compete since the age requirement for CARIFTA has been lowered to 13.
“I do believe that we can win one, possibly two medals this year,” said Smith. “Our athletes look forward to CARIFTA as an event to improve their performances and also form friendships with other athletes from the Caribbean.”
In 2018, USVI won one medal, a silver in the 5k, thanks to Evan Jones’ 4:02.93 effort in the U20 boys’ 1500m.
BVI has qualified eight athletes so far for CARIFTA. Twin brothers Diamante and Djimon Gumbs (shot put and discus U20), Palesha Ceasar (discus U17), Arianna Hayde (long jump U20), Akrisa Eristee (400m U17 female), Jaleel Croal (100 and 200m U17), Kaelyaah Liburd (400m U17 female) and Orlando Douglas (discus U17) will travel to Cayman come April.
BVI Track and Field Public Relations Officer Cleave Farrington believes the Gumb brothers, Akrisa Eristee, Jaleel Croal, Palesha Ceasar and Arianna Hayde are the front runners to bring home medals and is predicting a possible three pieces of hardware for BVI this year. The island’s only CARIFTA medal is a bronze won by Rikkoi Braithwaite in the U20 boys 100m in 2018, whose Carifta Games career is over, won the country’s only medal, bronze.
“They have all improved over the past few years, and most recently they improved on their personal best marks as well. They have the drive to succeed,” said Farrington.
Farrington also spoke about the importance of competitions such as CARIFTA, which is widely considered one of the best development meets in world athletics, attracting university coaches and scouts from the US who are attend each year to look at the up-and-coming talent in hopes of signing promising athletes to their track and field programmes.
“CARIFTA means a great deal to our country. It provides great opportunities for our athletes and prepares them for future higher games.”
Team Dominica was hoping for an impressive six medals at CARIFTA 2019 but their preparation has been hampered by lack of training facilities due to having to share the stadium with other sports. Godwin Dorsett, president of the Dominica Amateur Athletic Association, said they are hoping to get at least six more qualifiers at the end of the High School Championships which takes place on 21 and 22 March.
The team from the Nature Isle will be led by Ternesse Hamilton, who won two bronze medals in The Bahamas in 2018, first throwing 13.14m in the U17 girls’ shot put and then 33.50m in the discus. Denill Linson is the other qualified athlete for Dominica to date. He will compete in the U20 boys 200m.