Sun | Oct 1, 2023

More sub-1:50 Champs races to come – Johnson

Published:Monday | February 27, 2023 | 1:13 AMHubert Lawrence/Gleaner Writer
Sean Booker of Dinthill Technical
Sean Booker of Dinthill Technical
Kemario Bygrave of Jamaica College
Kemario Bygrave of Jamaica College

From Kimar Farquharson in 2019 to J’Voughnn Blake last year, the winners of the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Championships (Champs) Class One 800 metres have made the one minute 50 seconds barrier a thing of the past. Jamaica College (JC) middle-distance coach Duane Johnson is quietly hoping that the barrier will be broken again at the championships this year, and he has identified the boys who may be able to do it: Kemario Bygrave and Seon Booker.

Bygrave, the 2021 Class Two champion for JC, and Booker, a Guyanese newcomer at Dinthill Technical, boomed big personal bests at the recent Fervet Distance Carnival, 1.50.90 for Bygrave and 1.51.67 for Booker. But for a mishap, Johnson says Bygrave could have dipped under 1.50 last year.

“I don’t know if you remember the Carifta Trials race last year when his teammate, J’Voughnn Blake, ran 1.47. He was on pace for sub-1.50 in that race as well until a little mishap took place in the race in the homestretch between him and Hinds from St Jago,” Johnson recounted.

Blake won in one minute 47.62 seconds, ahead of Adrian Nethersole, 1.50.15. Bygrave got the worse of a collision with Tafari Hinds, then of St Jago High School, and drifted back to fourth in 1.51.75. In training this season at Jamaica College, Bygrave has reached the benchmarks set by Blake and Handal Roban last year.

“All season long, he has been hitting the marks similar to what Handal and Blake were doing in training last season, so I am pretty confident that he’s there,” Johnson said.

Bygrave anchored Jamaica College to an easy 4x400m relay victory last Saturday at the Gibson McCook Relays, breezing through an anchor leg split time of 1.52.6.

Booker led Bygrave until the 650 metres mark at the recent Fervet Distance Carnival, prompting Johnson to predict faster times for the Guyanese lad.

“I saw that potential in him as well,” the JC coach said in praise of the work Booker has done with Danny Hawthorne, the expert who coached sprinters Nikole Mitchell and Percival Spencer at St Mary’s High and Yohan Blake, Nickel Ashmeade, and Riker Hylton at St Jago High.

“If he is able to approach his race a little bit better, I think that he is knocking on that door as well,” the JC middle-distance coach explained.

Booker has his eye on the Boys Champs Class One record set by Chevonne Hall of Edwin Allen High School in 2021 and matched by Blake in 2022 - 1 minute 48.58 seconds. Asked in January about his goals for the season, Booker declared, “I’ll attempt to break the 800m record and go for the 400m record, too.” Pressed to clarify whether or not he was aiming for Guyanese junior records, Booker elucidated, “No, I’m talking about Champs records in Jamaica, 1.47, and I promise I’ll get it.”