Local high school stars on show at Puma East Coast meet on Saturday Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

MARYLAND, USA: More than 100 Jamaican high school athletes are gearing up to showcase their talents against top competitors in their age group at the third edition of the Puma East Coast International Track and Field Showcase on Saturday.

The one-day event will unfold at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex in Landover, Maryland, beginning at 11:00 am Jamaica time.

This gathering follows closely on the heels of the 128th rendition of the Penn Relays in Philadelphia, where Jamaican high school athletes asserted their dominance. Despite a demanding season, expectations remain high for these young competitors.

Sanjay Ayre, CEO of 2 Eagle Sports and Entertainment, the organizing entity behind the meet, has expressed confidence in the Jamaican athletes’ ability to endure the prolonged season.

“In our first season of the meet, there were a lot of individuals who were concerned about whether the athletes could endure the challenges,” remarked the two-time Jamaican Olympians. “We witnessed athletes achieving world-leading times, exceptional performances, and instances where participants from last year’s meet opted to forego college opportunities in favour of turning professional, with Alana Reid serving as a prime example.” Aye emphasized, “So there is no question that, with adjusted training schedules from coaches, athletes can indeed endure the season and compete at remarkably high levels.”

The marquee boys’ and girls’ 100m events will feature 32 Jamaicans in the preliminaries.

Leading Jamaica’s charge in the Girls’ 100m will be Carifta Games champions Sabrina Dockery of Lacovia High, Shanoya Douglas of Muchette High, and Alliah Baker of Hydel High.

Dockery, who triumphed with a lifetime best time of 11.26 seconds in the Girls’ Under-20 100m event at the Carifta Games in Grenada on March 31, will seek to maintain her momentum. Her victory marked a reversal of fortunes from the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls Athletics’ Championships, known as Champs, where she overcame her Jamaican teammate and pre-race favourite Theianna Lee Terrelonge (11.32).

Dockery is slated to compete in the first heat, where she will go head-to-head with Elise Cooper of McDonogh School in Maryland.

Cooper, who is considered as one of the best junior sprinters in the country, has already won nine state championships. In her last race of her sophomore season in 2023, she set a new Maryland state record in the 200m with a personal-best time of 22.80, clocking that time for the silver medal at the Pan American U20 Championships in Puerto Rico.

Douglas has been unbeaten all season and will be looking to continue the trend. She will also contest the 200m.

Despite the long season Douglas is confident about ending on a high in both events. “I am strong mentally and physically and ready for any obstacle,” said Douglas who won the 200m-400m double at Champs.  She is also the Under-20 Carifta Games champion in the 200m.

Baker is riding a wave of success after leading Hydel High to a double victory in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays at the Penn Relays.

Prior to her triumph at the Penn Relays, Baker secured the Girls’ Class One sprint double at Champs. Just three days after clocking a personal-best time of 11.31 in the 100m, the 18-year-old claimed the 200m title in 23.89 (-0.4m/s), also a personal best. She currently holds the title of fastest schoolgirl in Jamaica this year over both distances.

In Maryland, Baker will solely compete in the 100m, viewing it as a significant opportunity to showcase her skills internationally.

She aims to conclude her high school journey with an impressive performance. “I am definitely looking forward to achieving a personal best in the 100m,” Baker said. “I know it will be challenging competing against some outstanding athletes from the United States. Despite not having many opportunities to compete in the event this season due to injury, I am eager to give my best effort and finish the season on a high note.”

Douglas and Baker will compete head-to-head in the second heat, joined by two other Jamaicans – Chevauna Grant of Titchfield High and Shemonique Hazel of Hydel High.

The four Jamaican athletes will also contend with Brianna Selby from Indian River High. Selby recently made headlines by becoming the first track athlete in Virginia to secure a Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) deal with New Balance. Just two months ago, she set a new 60m New Balance National Indoor record with a time of 7.19 seconds.

The Girls’ 100m event will comprise 22 heats, with the top 16 advancing based on time, resulting in both an ‘A’ final and a ‘B’ final.

Damor Miller of Excelsior will lead Jamaica’s contingent in the Boys’ 100m, featuring 28 heats.

Miller enters the competition in excellent form following his instrumental role in helping his school to win its first Penn Relays High School Boys’ 4x100m Championship of America title. Adding to his accolades, he clinched the Class One 100m title at Champs, recording a personal-best time of 10.31 seconds.

Anticipating the upcoming event, Miller is optimistic about his performance. “I understand the challenges ahead, but I am confident in my abilities to excel and achieve a commendable time in the event,” Miller stated.

Another top Jamaican high school athlete set to compete is Kemarrio Bygrave from Jamaica College, who holds the titles of Carifta Under-20 800m and 1500m champion. Bygrave is poised to conclude his high school career on a strong note, following his remarkable performance as the anchor leg runner in leading JC to victory in the 4x800m relay at the Penn Relays just a week prior.

Bygrave will vie in the 800m event, aiming to maintain his undefeated streak for the season. “I want to end my season on a high. I am aiming for a win and to get a personal best also. My confidence is high going into the meet and I can’t wait to take the track,” he said.