Jamaica’s Demish Gaye (second right) runs to win the men’s 400m in 45.08 seconds at the Jamaica International Invitational Meet at National Stadium on Saturday. American Matthew Hudson-Smith (left) was fourth in 45.70.
Young Jamaican prodigy Christopher Taylor stole the spotlight at the 15th staging of the Jamaica International Invitational (JII) Meet, which produced three records, a world-leading performance, and five Jamaican wins inside National Stadium on Saturday.
Taylor, along with Elaine Thompson, Janieve Russell, Shericka Jackson and Demish Gaye, provided locals with a lot to cheer about.
American Anna Price broke the hammer throw record with a world-leading 76.27m. Nigeria's Eses Brume leapt 6.82m for the women's long jump record, and Jamal Wilson of The Bahamas soared to 2.28 and equalled the men's high jump record on an evening interspersed with rain.
But what must be the performance of the meet, especially from a Jamaican perspective, Taylor, the Calabar High School 18-year-old star, upstaged Olympic 400m champion Lashawn Merritt and the 2015 World Championships 200m bronze medallist Anaso Jobodwana of South Africa and brought the house down.
In front of a relatively small gathering, fans witnessed the coming of age of Taylor who, running blind from lane seven with no one in lane eight, was never headed and actually was going away at the end for a most facile victory, which ignited the crowd.
Taylor clocked 20.49 seconds with both Merritt and Jobodwana second and third with identical 20.72-seconds finishes with American Marqueze Washington back in fourth in 20.82 seconds.
Taylor, sporting a bright orange and black outfit, left the blocks quickly and was challenged by Jobodwana off the curve, but he responded well to send the stadium into ecstasy.
“It's a great feeling. It's a motivation for me going forward seeing that I am just 18 and I was in there with the big boys and I came out victorious; and this just a big motivation for me going into the World Juniors,” beamed Taylor.
“It wasn't difficult running from lane seven, as I asked coach if he could get me lane seven so I wouldn't have much corner to run, and I just came out and executed,” he explained.
Despite not dipping below his personal best of 20.35 seconds, Taylor said he was not disappointed. “The rain was earlier today so I came out and executed and did my best.”
The veteran Merritt, who has a personal best of 19.74 seconds, interrupted Taylor's interview to congratulate the young Jamaican prodigy.
“He is a great competitor. I have seen him run some 400s and I knew he was ready to come run the 200…and I congratulate him,” said Merritt.
He added: “I had some stuff going on with my body and I was probably the person off the curve, but I kept my form and I just wanted to finish up the race strong and that's what I did.”
Meanwhile, American Anna Price won the women's hammer throw in a meet record 76.27m, which is the best in the world this year. Her compatriot Gwen Berry, who held the old record of 73.83 since 2016, was second with 71.32m. Amanda Bingson completed the American sweep with 69.89m.
Nigeria's Ese Brume won the women's long jump in a record 6.82m, which is the fifth-best in the world. The previous mark was 6.61m held by American Brittney Reese since 2009.
The third record was established by Jamal Wilson of The Bahamas, who leapt 2.28m and equalled the 13-year-old mark of Adam Shunk of the USA. It's the 15th-best jump in the world.
And the ever-improving Shericka Jackson won the 200m in 22.55 seconds (0.4 mps) as she powered away from Nigeria's world leader Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor, who was second in 22.66 seconds. American Phyllis Francis was third in 22.76 seconds.
Jackson, the 2016 Olympic 400m bronze medallist, who has some fast times of 22.18, 22.28 and 22.36 this season, said she was satisfied with her performance.
“The first 100m wasn't so good but then I had another 100m to go and I am a quarter-miler, so all I had to do was run home strongly and I did that and I got the win,” said Jackson.
Jamaica's double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson won the women's international 100m in 11.06 seconds (-0.3 mps) in a clean sweep by the Jamaicans. Kerron Stewart was second in 11.25 seconds with Natasha Morrison third in 11.26 seconds.
“I am pleased, but it is still difficult to push from the blocks — but I tried to pick up and push from there. The start is not great now, but I am still working on it,” Thompson revealed.
American Ronnie Baker won the men's 100m in 10.00 (2.0 mps) just ahead of his countryman Mike Rodgers in 10.04 seconds. Jamaica's Tyquendo Tracey was third in 10.14 seconds, just outside his personal best of 10.12 seconds. Nesta Carter was sixth in 10.35 seconds.
Commonwealth Games champion Jenieve Russell easily dispatched the field in the 400m hurdles in 54.26 seconds, which was a whisker outside Lashinda Demus' record of 54.20 seconds done in 2006.
American Ashley Spencer was second in 55.23 seconds, with Jamaica's American-based Leah Nugent third in 55.37 seconds. London World Championships bronze medallist Ristananna Tracey was sixth in 56.38 seconds.
Russell, who achieved her personal best of 53.78 seconds last week, said she is aiming for Melaine Walker's national record of 52.42 seconds set in 2009.
“That's the objective. I want to get the national record and I am going to try this year and if I don't get it, definitely next year. But this year is just being consistent. It doesn't matter if I win, it doesn't matter if I lose — it's just the times and how I execute my race,” said Russell.
TJ Holmes of the US won the men's 400m hurdles in a very good 48.67 seconds ahead of Jamaica's Shawn Rowe, who was second with 49.12 seconds. American great Kerron Clement was third in 49.37 seconds, with Jamaica's Andre Clarke fourth in 49.50 seconds. Jaheel Hyde, who stumbled badly over the last hurdle, faded into fifth with 49.60 seconds.
American Jessica Beard upstaged the Jamaicans in the women's 400m and won in 50.52 seconds ahead of her countrywoman Jaide Stepter with 50.72 seconds. Stephanie-Ann McPherson was the best Jamaican and finished third in 50.82 seconds, after leaving out very late. Chrisann Gordon was fourth with 51.23 seconds.
But it was fitting that a Jamaican closed the show in winning fashion as Demish Gaye pulled the curtains down with a very good 45.08-second clocking in the men's 400m, which was a season's best.
Javon Francis chased him home to second place in 45.35 seconds, with Bralon Taplin of Grenada third with 45.41 seconds. Mathew Hudson-Smith of Great Britain finished fourth in 45.70 seconds and America's Michael Cherry was fifth with 46.20 seconds.
Gaye reversed the placing with Francis from the Commonwealth Games in April, where he was sixth in 45.56 seconds and Francis third with 45.11 seconds.