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Freddie Evans feels young athletes can take 2023 by storm

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Bermuda’s Madisyn Bobb competes in the 200m at the Carifta Games last year.
Jaeda Grant is the first local athlete to qualify for the 2023 Carifta Games in Bahamas (File photograph)
Fenella Wightman crosses the line to win a second gold medal at the Carifta Aquathon at Clearwater (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Sanaa Rae Morris with her bronze medal earned at the weekend

Freddie Evans, the Bermuda National Athletics Association president, is full of optimism for 2023 as he feels the island is blessed with exciting young talent.

Following hot on the heels of the year’s first track meet at the Dame Flora Duffy Stadium on Saturday, there will be plenty of aspiring running stars taking part in the Front Street Mile.

Qualification for that event produced some top performances with Jaeda Grant becoming the island’s first athlete to qualify for the upcoming Carifta Games, which will be held in Bahamas in April, after reaching the required standard in the girls 1,500 metres during the trials last month.

Grant marked her arrival on the Carifta scene in some style last year as a member of the under-17 4x400m relay team that clinched the silver medal in at the National Stadium in Jamaica and Evans is looking forward to watching her in individual competition

“Jaeda qualified for Carifta at that mile so she opened the door for everybody right there,” Evans said.

Fenella Wightman, who won two gold medals at the Carifta Aquathlon in November, narrowly missed out qualifying in the girls under-17 1,500 metres by a tenth of a second at last month’s Front Street Mile trials. She is among an impressive list of locally-based Carifta hopefuls alongside fellow distance runners Kelise Wade, Carina Bortoli, Cameron Adkins and Tobiah Goodchild, and Evans was delighted to see some of them in action last weekend..

“We have a lot of talented young athletes and took some steps last year with those young people and we are looking forward to seeing the progression,” Evans said.

“Jaeda Grant, Fenella Wightman and others stepped forward at the weekend, just really making track noise like they are going to do something special. Kelise Wade ran 1,000 metres in something like 3:43 right behind the adult athletes. She was just rolling, so she’s very strong.

“Sprinters Saniya Place and Lashee Jones, who would be first-timers in Carifta running in the 300 metres also did really well in the first meet, which bodes well for all of us.”

Evans is also encouraged by the progress being made by those competing for schools and colleges abroad such as sprinters Jaylen Scott, Denver Tucker and Madisyn Bobb and distance runners Khazi Sealy and Simeon Hayward.

“We have so many young people overseas that will also help us tremendously,” he added. “I also think we have first-year college students like Sancho Smith and Sanaa Rae Morris, who are representing us overseas in their schools and who should be able to make the Carifta team in the under-20 category.

“Sanaa has been on relay teams that have won medals in her first two Cariftas so I am glad to have her returning. Sancho missed out on Carifta last year but is trying to come back with a vengeance.”

It’s clear Evans has high expectations for the island’s athletes at this year’s games as the event marks an important anniversary.

“This is the 50th Carifta Games and Bermuda was once a powerhouse,” he said. “Now we are a smaller version but we want to step back into the ranks of being recognised as a track-and-field leader with the efforts of these young athletes.

“I have high expectations for the season. It’s probably going to develop into a great season for some of these people.”

As well as Carifta, Evans also hopes to see the island’s juniors compete at a host of other events this year including the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletics Association (NACAC) Age Group Championships in the Dominican Republic, NACAC U18/U23 Championships in Costa Rica, Pan American U20 Athletics Championships in Puerto Rico, Commonwealth Youth Games in Trinidad and Tobago and Central America Isthmus Athletic Confederation U13/U15 Championships in El Salvador.

“Those are all events that are sponsored by NACAC and World Athletics that we should be participating in and as you can see that’s a lot of events for these young people,” he added. “There are a lot of huge events on the calendar this year and we want to qualify and show some ability.”

To bolster the island’s chances of success on the international stage, the BNAA has implemented an ambitious outreach programme involving parents, teachers and coaches from all sports.

“We want to have bigger teams going to all of those major championships and the only way we can do that is through development, sustainability and getting our young people involved, and that’s what the outreach is about,” Evans said. “We are trying to give these children opportunities to compete and help them to see their potential.

“We also want to do some other outreach and one of the things I want is to get out there to coaches of all sports, parents and teachers is that if you have an athlete aged 13 through 18 who can run, jump or throw and has a desire to represent this country, I am fine with that.

“We are going to make sure they get the opportunity to learn the craft to compete and who knows, maybe they can make the Carifta team or our regional championship team and it might even help them perform better in their other sport. I say athletics is a baseline for all sports so we’d love to have more.

“I am not trying to lure athletes away from their primary sport, but I think this is a secondary sport that can help them and help us at the same time.”

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Published January 10, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated January 09, 2023 at 6:33 pm)

Freddie Evans feels young athletes can take 2023 by storm

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