A historic gold to Dominica and superlative performances by Andrew Hudson, Sarah Mitton, Kyron McMaster and Kara Winger highlighted the final day of the North and Central American & Caribbean (NACAC) Championships, where 10 championship records were established on Sunday (21).
Commonwealth champion Kyron McMaster joined USA’s 800m winner Ajee Wilson in retaining their title from the previous edition in Toronto in 2018 and he did so in spectacular fashion, winning the 400m hurdles in a season’s best of 47.34, the second-fastest time of his career and almost a second faster than his previous championship record (48.18).
“It’s all in the food, the Bahamian food,” said the Olympic fourth-place finisher. “After being on the European circuit and spending most of my time in the USA, coming here reminds of my roots, the Caribbean feeling, being next to home. It really helps. Track and field is a wrangler event, a lot of ups and downs, a rocky road. You claim some mountains. You fall off sometimes, but you keep pushing. Once you know your goal and motivation, you keep going at it. I’ve had a tough year, so my season is a day-by-day process.”
The athlete from the British Virgin Islands was pushed all the way by USA’s World Championships finalist Khalifa Rosser (47.59) with USA’s TJ Holmes (48.23) in third.
Fourth a day earlier in the long jump, Thea Lafond made history by becoming the first athlete from Dominica to win a NACAC title in the 15-year history of the event. Trailing US record-holder Keturah Orji, who set a championship standard of 14.32m in the second round, two-time Commonwealth Games medallist Lafond landed at 14.49m in the sixth and final round to achieve the elusive gold.
“It feels amazing to be in the Caribbean; one Caribbean, one love, for sure,” said Lafond. “This weather, this food. I had some guava duff last night and I think that is what pushed me today, an extra bit of happiness can go a long way.”
Hudson became the 12th Jamaican member of the sub-20 club as he won the 200m with a championship record of 19.87, one of three gold medals won by Jamaica on Sunday. Hudson led USA’s 100m silver medallist Kyree King (20.00) and Josephus Lyles (20.18).
“Taking the win in a PB is really special,” said Hudson. “I treated it like the World Championships. I was a bit nervous at the beginning, but it’s been a great experience. With the World Championships next year being held in August, this year was a test trial to see if I could run fast this late in the season and I did.”
In the women’s race, 2019 world silver medallist Brittany Brown rewrote the record books with a 22.35 clocking with two-time World Championships finalist Tynia Gither equalling her personal best of 22.41 to earn silver for the host nation.
In her final season of an illustrious 19-year career in the javelin, USA’s Kara Winger added more than four-and-a-half metres to her own NACAC record set in 2015 with her second-round 64.68m winning throw.
More world-class throwing was displayed almost simultaneously in the shot put circle with Commonwealth champion Sarah Mitton earning Canada’s second gold in Freeport with a massive 20.15m toss. USA’s world finalist Jessica Woodard (18.82m) and Jessica Ramsey (18.74m) also surpassed the previous championship record.
USA’s world indoor finalist Helen McLean (4:04.53) and Eric Holt (3:37.62) added their names to the record books in the 1500m. US teammate Evan Jager, the 2016 Olympic silver medallist, did likewise in the steeplechase (8:22.55).
Kaylin Whitney, Kyra Jefferson, A’Keyla Mitchel and Jaide Stepter Baynes combined their efforts to lead the USA 4x400m team to another record in 3:23.54. The US dominated all relays, with 100m and 200m silver medallist Kyree King finally adding gold with a victory in the men’s 4x100m.
Other winners on the day were Jamaica’s Traves Smikle in the discus (62.89m) and Shiann Salmon in the 400m hurdles (54.22), Cuba’s Eduardo Napoles in the pole vault (5.25m) and USA’s William Williams in the long jump (7.89m), ahead of Jamaica’s 2019 world champion Tajay Gayle (7.81m), back in competition after sustaining a bruised bone during the National Championships which hindered his performance at the World Championships.
The crowd erupted and the Junkanoo drums followed every race on the final day, including a strong anchor by Tynia Gaither to secure gold for the Bahamas in the women’s 4x400m relay.
The championships ended with a Junkanoo parade on the home straight, where fans and athletes joined to end the regional meet in typical Bahamian style.
Of the 43 events contested, championship records were broken in 25 of them, one more than in Toronto in 2018. The USA dominated the medal table with 29 gold medals, followed by Jamaica with six. Canada, Cuba and Guatemala earned two titles each. 15 of the 29 participating nations won at least one medal.
By Javier Clavelo Robinson for World Athletics