Simons dampens medal expectations
Jumping and middle distance running will be Bermuda's strong suit again at the Carifta Games, but coach Rohaan Simons is urging caution in regards to expectations.
Last year, Bermuda brought home five medals from Martinique, but of those winners only high jumper Sakari Famous will be competing in the same age group, as Kyrah Scraders, a double medallist, and Jah-Nhai Perinchief are both stepping up into the under-20s.
Dage Minors, the other medal winner last year, has “aged out” as Bermuda name four athletes in the team of twelve who will make their debuts at the Games to be held in St Kitts and Nevis next month.
“We have a very strong team but we do have Jah-Nhai going up to the under-20s and that's not going to be the easiest competition in the world,” said Simons, who will coach the team along with Jarita Vickers.
“That's going to be very, very stiff because there are a lot of jumpers all around the 2.13, 2.15, even 2.20 [metres] range. It's going to be difficult but if he continues to jump the way I know he can jump, I know he'll be all right.”
Perinchief, who won the silver medal at Carifta last year, broke Simons's 21-year-old over-16 high jump record of 2.05 at the Senior Schools Track and Field Championships last week when he cleared the bar at 2.06.
He failed at two attempts at 2.09 before pulling out with fatigue, but he has a personal best jump of 2.10, set in Nanjing, China, last year at the Youth Olympic Games.
Elisha Darrell, 15, comes in as a replacement for Perinchief in the under-18 category, after he reached the qualifying mark of 1.90 at Berkeley Institute's recent sports day.
“This is his first Carifta, Mikayla Wilson another one, so we have two rookies and one [jumper] going up an age group and we have to put it into perspective,” Simons said.
“We just can't say that because we have a certain amount of people going to the competition that it warrants a medal. It doesn't work like that. I really feel that if we sort out a couple of little hiccups in Elisha's technique I really think he can surprise a lot of people.”
The riches of Bermuda jumpers, combined with a Carifta restriction of two athletes per age group, event and country, meant that Bermuda could only take two female high jumpers in each age group, with Azaire Smith, who qualified, missing out on selection.
“It actually makes the country stronger because you have more than two athletes in each age group vying for just two spots,” Simons added.
“It comes down to consistency and improvement and Sakari showed her class by jumping 1.70 and 1.73 on a pretty regular basis, while Mikayla also jumped 1.60 on a very regular basis.
“Azaire displayed something I would like to see with every athlete I've coached. She had some problems with her approach and technique and I was blunt with her about what she had to do.
“She went and turned around and came back and worked as hard as anybody I've ever seen work, didn't even want to leave training.
“Sometimes you're just not ready for this competition, but that doesn't mean there aren't other competitions you can't strive for. Somebody was always going to miss out. She'll come back and it will be even harder to pick a team for the next competition.”
Donna Watson, the Bermuda National Athletics Association president, said: “I'm very pleased with the team. Our goal is to get all the athletes into the finals and hopefully end up in the top five, or with medals. It is not going to be as easy in the under-20s as the under-18s.”
Smith competed last year but there will be four newcomers this year, Mikayla Wilson, high jump, Keisha Miller, long jump, Aaron Jacobs, 800, and Elisha Darrell, high jump.
Scraders, who won gold and silver in the 800 and 1,500 last year, will be one of the Island's best medal prospects as she steps up into the under-20 division.
“Kyrah has stepped up also and it is obviously going to cause her to change gears and I can see that happening,” Simons said.
“When we were in China I saw her run two completely different races, so basically she can run a very tactical race and then she has another side of her that wants to be the true warrior that she is.”
n Dage Minors became the first Franklin Pierce University athlete to earn All-America first-team honours when he placed sixth in the 800 metres on the final day of the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. The event was co-hosted by the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the Birmingham CrossPlex last weekend.
Minors, a sophomore, and his team-mates will have a short rest before the outdoor season begins this week at the Shamrock Invitational, hosted by Coastal Carolina in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina from March 19 to 21.