Time to step on the gas
Now that Navasky Anderson has given the Jamaican 800 metres record a gentle nudge towards respectability, we can all breathe a little easier. After all, the old mark by 1976 Olympic semi-finalist Seymour Newman was a quality performance when it was set in 1977, but that was generations ago.
Anderson’s time on Friday - one minute 45.02 seconds – at the NCAA Championships is more than overdue. Provided he competes at the National Championships later this month, it will put a Jamaican in the World Championships 800m for the first time since Marvin Watts contested the event in 2001 since the qualifying standard is 1.45.20.
Watts, Mario Vernon-Watson, and Clive Terrelonge were semi-finalists in 2001, 1997 and 1993 respectively with Terrelonge missing the final by a mere 0.01 hundredths of a second.
All told, the last Jamaican to run the two-lapper in a global outdoor tournament was Aldwyn Sappleton at the 2008 Olympics.
Nevertheless, the job is far from complete. Anderson is just 11th on the Central American and Caribbean all-time performance list behind four Cubans, a Venezuelan, a Mexican, a Colombian, and three Puerto Ricans. The list is led by 1996 Olympic finalist Norberto Tellez of Cuba at 1.42.85, and it includes legendary Alberto Juantorena, ‘El Caballo’, who set a world record 1.43.50 to win the Olympic gold medal in 1976.
Moreover, Terrelonge’s 1995 World Indoor upset win aside, George Kerr’s 1960 Olympic bronze medal is the last high honour won by Jamaica over two laps, and Kerr, fourth in 1964, is the last Jamaican man to make a big final.
So far, only 35 men have met the World Championship qualifying standard this year, and time is running out. If any other Jamaicans wish to join Terrelonge, Vernon-Watson, Watts, Alex Morga, and Gawain Guy on the list of men who have run the 800m at the World Championships, they have two choices: Run 1.45.20 or better before June 26 or get their times as near to it as possible and hope that World Athletics will pick them to fill the required quota.
There is a ray of hope. Seven of that group of 35 are Kenyans, and only three of them can be selected for the Worlds. By comparison, 46 men were called to run the 800m at the last World Championships in 2019.
Anderson may need to bring his American collegiate rival Brandon Miller with him to Jamaica. Miller and his Texas A&M teammate Sam Whitmarsh pushed the pace in the SouthEastern Conference race, where Anderson clocked 1.45.89 in May, and Miller stepped through a 50.9 second opener in the NCAA final.
The formula is simple: slow first lap, slow race.
The tide may be about to turn. A day after Anderson’s breakthrough, Rajay Hamilton dropped his personal best from 1.46.30 on April 16 to one minute 46.16 in New York. With Kimar Farquharson down to 1.46.88, Tarees Rhoden at 1.47.41, and schoolboy genius J’Voughnn Blake at 1.47.62, it looks like Jamaica’s 800m men are ready to step on the gas.