Jamaica will have the biggest visiting contingent at this weekend’s North, Central America and Caribbean (NACAC) Under-18, Under-20, and Under-23 Championship in Athletics at the National Stadium in San José, Costa Rica. A total of 263 athletes, including several soon-to-be Olympians, will be competing from Friday 9 to Sunday 11 July, with 19 territories represented.
Regrettably, North America will not be represented at all; the United States, Mexico, Canada, and Cuba were among the territories which opted not to send teams to the meet, which was last held in 2019 in Querétaro, Mexico.
The glittering 61-member Jamaica team is led by Christopher Taylor, who finished second in the men’s 400m at Jamaica Olympic Trials, and who has been selected in the national team for Tokyo 2020 for that event. His season-best time of 45.13 places the 22-year-old former World U18 champion as favourite for the U23 men’s event this weekend. Alexander Bautista of the Dominican Republic also runs in the low 45’s, but he has been entered only for the 200m and mile relay. Fellow Tokyo 2020 selectee Jonathan Jones Barbados and the University of Texas is likely to be Taylor’s most dangerous rival in San Jose.
Also on the Jamaica squad are U23 runners Charokee Young, Shiann Salmon, and Leonardo Ledgister. Young, a Texas A&M sophomore, is on the 4x400m mixed relay team for Tokyo, whilst 400m hurdlers Salmon and Ledgister are reserves for the men’s and women’s events in Tokyo. Both hurdlers are the top seeds for their events. Young leads the standings for women’s 400m with 50.85, but on paper, Fiordaliza Cofil of the Dominican Republic and Shafiqua Maloney of St. Vincent & The Grenadines should post strong challenges.
On Friday, Jamaica’s Lamara Distin will seek to get gold in women’s high jump, over Marysabel Senyu of the Dominican Republic, and Ángela Rosario of Panamá. Jaydon Hibbert (Jamaica) is the youngest man in the U18 triple jump field, but he is the only one to have gone over 15 metres this year. In the U20 men’s triple jump, that honour goes to Nathan Wallis of Barbados, the oldest athlete in his group. Barbados could be gunning for double gold in the triple jump, as the University of Florida’s Jonathan Miller looks to build on an impressive span of performances. He must defeat teammate Jadon Brome, Cesar Castrof of the Dominican Republic, and Taceo O’Garro of Antigua and Barbuda, if he intends to top the medal rostrum.
Ricardo Hayles will wish to extend Jamaica’s authority in the U18 men’s discus throw, where he faces fellow countryman, Zachry Campbell; Kaden Cartwright of the Bahamas; Antwon Walkin of the Turks And Caicos Islands; and Jeims Alvarez of Costa Rica. In the U18 women’s discus throw, the Jamaicans could well sweep the medals, with Cedricka Williams, Shamella Donaldson, and Britannia Johnson producing the best throws in the field this season. Lacee Barmes of the Cayman Islands is the top competitor in the U23 women’s discus throw, ahead of Acacia Astwood of the Bahamas; Rosa Santana of the Dominican Republic; and Tania Miranda of Costa Rica. Santana, however, is the shot put favourite, with Deisheline Scott keen to capture the home team’s first medal.
On the track, there is likely to be a tough battle in the U23 men’s 100m. Olympic-bound Kion Benjamin (a member of Trinidad and Tobago’s 4×100-metre Tokyo team) will fancy his chances. But Benjamin won’t have things his own way at all, as he must hold off the likes of Matthew Clarke (Barbados); Guinove Joanus (Haiti); and Odaine McPherson (Jamaica). Antigua and Barbuda’s Joella Lloyd will contest the women’s 100m in Tokyo – in San Jose, the third-fastest U20 athlete in the world for 2021 will be going for gold in that age group. Nazzio John of Grenada will attempt to take the U20 men’s title. Jamaica’s Tina Clayton is expected to dominate the U18 women’s 100m. Her stiffest challenge may come from teammate Serena Cole, but the Dominican Republic’s Liranyi Tejada, the Bahamian duo of Paige Archer and Shavantae Roberts, as well as Guatemala’s Mariandreé Aroche will hope to feature. The U18 men’s race is similarly likely to be led by the Jamaicans, through Alicke Cranston and Orlando Wint.