Wed | Oct 4, 2023

Smith-Band rises, JC peaking – Harrison

Published:Friday | March 17, 2023 | 1:08 AMHubert Lawrence/Gleaner Writer

Last year, Jamaica College (JC) got a sterling silver double effort from Deandre Watkin at the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships (Champs). The outgoing senior finished second in the Class One 200 and 400 metres with personal best times. From all appearances, the school’s head coach Neil Harrison has groomed Malique Smith-Band to reprise the double role for this year’s championships.

Smith-Band closed last weekend’s Carifta Trials with a fast win in the under-20 200 metres. He charged through a pesky headwind to cover the 200 metres in 21.13 seconds. A week earlier, he stepped a personal best 47.58 seconds for the runner-up spot at the Corporate Area Championships in the 400 metres.

Speaking on Sunday, Harrison all but confirmed that Smith-Band will attempt the double at Boys and Girls’ Championships which starts on March 28. “Pretty much, that’s what we’re aiming at. It’s a championship. We have the quality. He’s doing quite well. We tested the waters today and he’s looking good so ... ,” Harrison said about his athlete’s triumph over a good field.

Smith-Band has been a stalwart for JC’s national leading 4x400m relay unit. Although the school has lost its successful 2022 squad, the 189 Old Hope Roaders won at the Gibson McCook Relays last month with the fastest time in the nation, three minutes 10.40 seconds with Smith-Band and last year’s Class Two 400m champion Mark Anthony Miller churning out legs clocked in 46.4 and 46.2 seconds, respectively.

Harrison had excellent 4x400m teams at Munro College and Kingston College (KC), so this isn’t new.

“I always just give of my best, you know. I work well with the youngsters. They always rise to the occasion, and I continue to give of my best to ensure they can hone their true potential,” he said modestly.

Jamaica College finished a strong third to KC and Calabar High at the Corporate Area Championships and Smith-Band’s form is one sign of a squad getting ready for Champs.

“It’s always a tough one. Calabar, KC, they have quality teams. We’re just hoping that, come the day, we’ll rise to the occasion,” Harrison envisaged. “We are peaking at the right time and we’re just hoping that they will take this over to the championships, leave it on the track and whatever happens, happens,” resolved the coach who led JC to the 2021 team title.

Caymanian sprinter Jaiden Reid is another JC boy who is peaking at the right time. He did a lifetime best 10.51 seconds to place second to KC captain Bouwahjgie Nkrumie in the Corporate Area 100 and did a comfortable invitational sprint double in 10.55 and 21.45 seconds at the trials.

“He has nothing to really compete for. It’s a Jamaican trial, you know. It’s a workout for him so he’s running off instructions, so, you know, he’s just giving enough to keep in shape, and I’m satisfied,” Harrison assessed.