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5 Teen-aged Sprinters Caught My Eyes

The excitement from the Jamaica high school track and field championships (Champs) in March might still be in the air. For me, it was more than the battle among schools, the points they amass, and bragging rights; I tend to see who catches my eyes as the possible next “big thing” overtime, based on their form and focus. I pay less attention to athletes’ placement in the race and the times they do.

Alliah Baker (18)

This Hydel Class 1 athlete has been on my radar since last year, when she was a flat 400m specialist and 400m hurdler who anchored the 4×1 team to victory. I had been wanting to see Baker in the short individual sprints; I had a persistent feeling she could be dangerous. She ran tall and utilized powerful high knees and strides to get the job done.

Alana Reid, the 2023 leading lady of sprints at Hydel, moved on to the professional ranks last year, and coach Corey Bennett has brought Baker down to the sprint double, assigned her duties on both relays on legs that mattered most, and made her captain of the team.

She didn’t disappoint; she copped gold with personal best times in the sprints and ran the crucial back stretch in the 4×1 and anchored the 4×4 relays.

What’s next for Baker? I envision her excelling at the senior level if she decides to take up a career in track. This versatile young lady has range and can take on any distance from 100m to 400m. It comes down to the event(s) she wants and where her next coach believe she belongs. One possibility she could be groom for is heptathlon; she has tasted other disciplines that make up this event.

Damor Miller (19)

 The ace Excelsior High School had in the bag for Champs is not to be ignored, for while he didn’t run spectacular times relative to some who have gone before, his desire and determination will get him where he wants to be. His ability to take his journey from fifth to first in a 100m final in one year might have been a surprise but is nothing to be scoffed at. If he’s to take track seriously, taking on the 200m would be in his best interest.

Shanoya Douglas (16)

This 16-year-old (photo above) possesses the qualities she needs to take her higher. She is the picture of a professional in full flight and is well equipped with smooth and steady strides, determination, focus, and charm, all so useful in this arena.  After emerging as the victor in the biggest girls clash at Champs, Douglas transformed her displeasure with her 2023 Carifta Games performance into three gold medals at Carifa 2024 (200m and two relays) and served team spirit and a fearless attitude in taking on challenges. Noticeably, she did it all with a smile. As a strong 400m runner, too, she should not shock us if she decides to double at 200 and 400. It’s not something many athletes can do well, let alone desire to do so at a high level. But France’s Marie Jose Perec conquered both in 1996, defeating the great Merlene Ottey in the half lap. Fluid and at her strongest and in the last 30 meters of the 200m, Douglas believes the 100m doesn’t like her.

Marcinho Rose (18)

Here’s another professional-looking sprinter; his smooth easy style of running is poetry in motion and quite deceptive and his lean forward throughout his races is his signature poster. His demeanor is one of concentration and no-nonsense. He upped his placement in the 200m from fourth in the Class One boys’ 200 meters at Champs last year to third and quarter-mile gold. He looks as formidable in the 200m as he does in the 400m. But which will he choose? Like Douglas, he has the capability of doing both successfully at the senior level. Carl Lewis in the Eighties and Michael Johnson in the Nineties did so before Usain Bolt in the Noughties.

Natrice East (15)

Some track aficionados say this Champs Class 2 champion reminds them of her long-retired compatriot Merlene Ottey; I say her height, long legs and upward running style scream Grace Jackson, the 1988 Olympic 200m silver medalist, is quite evident. East, who can chase down her rivals in the straight could be more dangerous when she learns to hug the bend, swing into the straight ahead, and maintain her momentum through the second 100m. She upgraded her Carifta bronze in 2023 to gold in 2024 and ran a storming third leg on the winning 4×1 squad.