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Irby and Greaves are miles ahead

Next generation: Defending champion Scraders, left, sits behind the leaders 200 metres into the High School Girls’ Front Street Mile race last Friday while Messiah Greaves, centre, looks for an early advantage

The KPMG Front Street Mile races, particularly the schools events, never fail to grab the attention of former middle distance runners Mike Watson and Steve Burgess.

It just so happens that two of the best talents on show in last week’s races — Ashley Irby and Messiah Greaves — are coached by Watson and Burgess who were keen rivals themselves on the track in their prime.

Irby set the only record on the night, a second straight record in the Middle Schools race after last year shattering the previous record held by Kyrah Scraders.

With Scraders having completed her final Front Street Mile schools race, the stage is set for an interesting battle between Greaves and Irby when the latter joins her in the Senior Schools race next year.

Greaves was second to Irby in the Middle Schools mile last year and ran the race of her life last Friday before losing to Scraders in one of the closest mile races seen as both runners recorded the same time.

Watson, who coaches Greaves at the Flyers Track Club, said that there was plenty of room for improvement for the 14-year-old.

“When I started coaching Messiah three or four years ago, one of the things I noticed about her is she’s got big lungs, a lot of heart, and because of that tends to have the endurance to go all the way,” said Watson, who worked on the night as a race commentator.

“The thing I was a little concerned about early in her career, and I told her mother, was that she didn’t possess a lot of speed but that has come over the years, even to the point that occasionally I run her at 400 metres. I’m confident she will have a range from 800 metres right up to half-marathon, which was the type of runner I was.

“One thing her mother and I are always on at her about is she doesn’t train enough, she doesn’t maintain her mileage.

“But when she finally gets it together and starts training like the other kids they better look out. We haven’t seen the best of her yet.”

Added Watson: “When you look at the likes of Ashley Irby, who broke her own record, if those athletes get serious in years to come Bermuda will have some top female middle distance runners.

“There are a number of them coming along but when I look at those two I see exceptional talent.”

Watson believes that both Greaves and Irby could make a push at qualifying for the Carifta Games, which will be held in St Kitts and Nevis in April.

“They are at a perfect age to be introduced to Carifta, because in middle distance it is important to get their feet wet early,” he said.

Burgess, who previously coached triathletes Tyler Butterfield and Flora Duffy as runners, expects to face a similar dilemma with Irby, still only 13, with her main interest being swimming.

“This is almost like a hobby to her, dabbling in running,” said Burgess, who has coached Irby since the age of nine.

“We’re just amazed at her ability and she enjoys it, but swimming is her sport.

“She definitely has the potential to go wherever she desires. She doesn’t say much, she’s very quiet, and lets her running do the talking.”