(SNO) — Saint Lucia’s last medal at the CARIFTA Games came in 2015, bronze going to Denzel St Marthe in javelin throw and Ace Louis in high jump, both boys under-20.
Since then, Saint Lucia has fielded a succession of national record holders, including Commonwealth Youth Games champion and Youth Olympics silver medallist, Julien Alfred. National records have been set at the meet as well.
Essentially, Saint Lucia has sent its best, only to come up empty.
That streak was extended at the 2019 CARIFTA Games in the Cayman Islands. Alfred was unavailable, as her US university denied her permission to travel.
The team included a national junior record holder, Kimani Alphonse; a World under-18 semifinalist, Reuben Nichols, and a Youth Olympic Games semifinalist, Shelton St Rose. Five of the nine team members were at their first CARIFTA. Three are based at Kingston College in Jamaica.
The best result came from debutant Miguel Charlery, whose run of 21.86 in the boys under-17 200m placed him fourth, bettering his run of 22.03 in the semifinals, which was the sixth best time going into the Sunday final. Charlery did not fare as well in the 100m, placing 10th overall in a time of 11.31, fourth in heat 3 on Saturday morning. He will be 17 in 2020, when he would be eligible for the under-20 division.
Tarik Xavier was fifth in the boys U20 1500m run, which was contested as a straight final with a small field. Just 18 this year, Xavier remains eligible for 2020, when all of this year’s medallists will have aged out. He also was 16th and last in the 800m preliminaries, running 2:12.98, and opted not to go in the 5,000m run. In 2018, he was 10th in the 1500 in 4:15.49, 10th in the 5K, and did not contest the 800.
Running considerably faster than she did at this stage last season, Alphonse made the girls U20 400m final once again. She finished fifth in the prelims last year and this, running 55.09 in qualifying in Cayman. In the finals, though, just as she did last year, she crossed the line in sixth, clocking 55.01 seconds. Even a repetition of her national junior record 54.61, however, would have been insufficient to make the podium. She turns 20 in 2020.
Another debutant, Zoya Jn Marie, was seventh in the girls U17 discus throw, her best mark of 32.55m. She will need to improve by nearly 10m next year and set a new national junior record in that event if she hopes to figure in the medals in Bermuda.
Khailan Vitalis turned in a mark of 1.80m to end tied for seventh in his first CARIFTA outing. He has a personal best of 1.90m, which would still have been short of the medals. The Kingston College student turns 17 next season.
Two other KC boys, Nichols and Michael Joseph, missed the U17 400 final. Nichols, at 48.01 seconds, was fifth in heat 3, and ended ninth overall. Joseph, on debut, was fifth in a slower heat, heat 2, running 48.84 to finish 13th overall. Both are eligible in 2020.
In his first try at a full octathlon, C.J. Felix was the youngest competitor in the field. He closed out after two days and eight events with a mark of 4,344 points. Aged just 17, he has two more years at this level, and will have taken away invaluable learnings. His best finish was sixth in the 110m hurdles.
St Rose was 11th overall in the boys U20 100m, clocking in at 10.94 in the prelims, second in his heat. He has another year at the U20 level.
All in all, despite an empty trip for Team Saint Lucia, all but one member of the team can return in 2020, and five of them will be in the same category.
Alfred will also be eligible, as will several other athletes based overseas. Opening lines of communication with her school will be essential.
Better training, perhaps a more tailored competition programme, and a more targeted approach will also certainly be needed if Saint Lucia is to end its longest medal drought ever at this level.
The potential addition of new events, including girls pole vault, could also provide better competitive outlets.