Although no official public announcement has been made by the Saint Lucia Athletics Association or the Saint Lucia Olympic Committee, three athletes have been chosen to represent the nation at the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa this September. And the selection is arousing no end of debate.
Daivon St Prix will compete in High Jump Boys. Rochelle Etienne will take part in Javelin Girls. And Sherlan Jules will contest the 100m and 200m Girls.
The choice of Etienne is fairly straightforward. She represented Saint Lucia at last year’s Youth Olympics, has made consecutive CARIFTA teams, and is easily the best young javelin thrower the island has seen since Erma Gene Evans, who went on to win Pan Am Junior gold and qualified for the Olympics.
Based on 2011 results, Etienne would be in the best position to medal in Samoa, but given her lack of improvement since failing to medal at CARIFTA this year, that is questionable. Still, a lot has been invested in the development of the 2014 Junior Female Athlete Of The Year, and her ticket can certainly be justified.
St Prix, meanwhile, is the best youth (under-18) high jumper on island. Although he only attained his best height of 1.90m last week (AFTER he had already been named to the team) that performance would have been good enough to get him a bronze medal at the 2011 Games.
So far, though, at least four Commonwealth youth have cleared 2.14m or better for the year. As with most meets at that time of year, his position may come down to who else is entered as much as it does to his performance.
But it is the inclusion of Jules that has led to the greatest opposition. Her best times this season – 12.32 seconds and 26.05, respectively – would have given her sixth place in the 2011 100m final, and would have left her out of the 200m final entirely. Amongst eligible athletes this season, the top 100m times in the Commonwealth are all under 11.55, whilst the top three 200m times are all nearly 2.5 seconds faster than Jules’.
More to the point, Jules is not close to being the best sprinter on island in her age group this year. In the 100m, Mechaela Hyacinth has twice gone under 12 seconds, and is Saint Lucia’s only qualifier for the World Youth Championships, whilst Gabrielle Tobierre ran a windy 12.07 at Nationals. Meanwhile, Allana Paul ran a windy 25.36 in the 200, with Mijan Augustus, Kimani Alphonse and Tonisha Hilton all ahead of Jules, who finished just fifth in her division at Nationals.
As previously mentioned, a meet like this can so often depend just upon who’s there. Who can get time off from school, who’s in anything approaching competitive shape, who’s not already turned attention to 2016. But the decision-making of the SLAA and SLOC has left many scratching their heads. If Saint Lucia is not getting it right in 2015, who’s to say local selectors will make good in 2017? If ever.