Francena McCorory wins the 400m in Kingston (© Errol Anderson)
It’s not often that the 100m and 200m don’t produce the highlights of the Jamaica International Invitational, but on a night of stiff headwinds the only world-leading marks at the IAAF World Challenge meeting on Saturday (3) came from US shot putter Christian Cantwell and 400m runner Francena McCorory.
McCorory, the world indoor 400m champion, ran away from her rivals in the last 10 metres to cross the line in 50.24, the fastest she has ever run at this early stage of the season. She finished ahead of Jamaicans Stephenie McPherson and Novlene Williams-Mills, who clocked season’s bests of 50.58 and 50.90 respectively.
Olympic champion Sanya Richards-Ross, competing in her first race since prematurely ending her 2013 season due to lack of fitness, clocked 51.62 to finish a distant fifth.
Three-time world indoor champion Cantwell won a competitive shot put with 21.85m to finish ahead of Jamaica’s Odain Richards, who set a PB of 21.11m, and USA’s Kurt Roberts, who threw 21.07m.
“This meet is getting harder and harder,” said Cantwell. “We had three guys over 21 metres.”
Justin Gatlin and Blessing Okagbare fought strong headwinds to dominate the 100m, while Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce topped the women’s 200m in the far-from-impressive sprints.
The 100m men’s field – which was without the three fastest Jamaicans Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell – saw Gatlin win with a late burst to beat the field in 10.11, running into a -1.9m/s headwind.
University of Technology student Andrew Fisher, who surprised the field with a fast start, finished second in 10.21, one place and one hundredth ahead of world bronze medallist Nesta Carter of Jamaica.
Earlier, in the women’s event, Nigeria’s Okagbare stamped her class on the field, which was without the likes of Fraser-Pryce, Camelita Jeter and Veronica Campbell-Brown. Having to contest with a -1.7m/s headwind, Okagbare crossed the line in 11.19 to comfortably beat Jamaican duo Kerron Stewart (11.32) and Carrie Russell (11.46).
“I am okay (with the time),” said Okagbare. “I came here and wanted to stay healthy. I was just trying to execute; if you don't have a good race, you just have to stay focused and execute.”
In the women’s 200m, Fraser-Pryce came away the victor in 22.53 over Kimberlyn Duncan and Jeneba Tarmoh, the US pair clocking 22.61 and 22.69 respectively. Fraser-Pryce was challenged off the curve, but pulled away on the straight to take a comfortable victory.
“Tonight was just to see where I am,” said Fraser-Pryce. “I’m happy that I ended healthy and now looking forward to my next race.”
The closest finish of the evening was in the men’s 200m as just 0.02 separated the top three finishers. Jamaica’s Rasheed Dwyer got the verdict in 20.53 ahead of USA’s world bronze medallist Curtis Mitchell (20.54) and Jamaica’s Jason Livermore (20.55).
The one-lap races provided the spectators with excitement from start to finish. In the end, world champion and world leader LaShawn Merritt was beaten by four hundredths of a second by Olympic silver medallist Luguelin Santos, who won in 44.82. Asian champion Youssef Al-Masrahi also dipped below 45 seconds with 44.96 in third place.
“He (Santos) ran a great race today and I have to give that to him,” said Merritt. “No disappointment for me. I think I ran a little bit too conservative.”
In the 400m hurdles, two-time Olympic champion Felix Sanchez triumphed in the men’s race in 49.21 over world champion Jehue Gordon (49.32) and Jamaica’s Leford Green (49.77) while NCAA champion Kori Carter of the USA won the women’s race in 54.94 over Jamaicans Ristananna Tracey (55.12) and Nickiesha Wilson (55.61).
“I’m an old man, but I’ve still got something left,” said Sanchez.
The sprint hurdles saw Olympic bronze medallist Hansle Parchment and world bronze medallist Tiffany Porter coming out on top, clocking 13.42 (-2.2m/s) and 12.92 respectively (-1.6m/s).
Will Leer won the men’s 1500m in 3:41.31, almost half a second ahead of Ireland’s Ciaran O’Lionaird. “Coming away with the victory is always first for me,” said Leer. “Times come second.”
On a night when US athletes dominated the field events, Kylie Hutson won the women’s pole vault with 4.50m, Will Claye topped the men’s long jump with a wind-assisted 8.19m, just ahead of compatriot Michael Hartfield 8.17m, and Gia Lewis-Smallwood the women’s discus with 59.96m.
Anthony Foster for the IAAF