By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
MOORE’S Islander Steven Gardiner, turning in a personal best performance to dip under the A qualifying standard for the IAAF World Championships in August, led a fleet of Bahamian athletes competing at various meets in the United States over the weekend.
Gardiner, one of two Bahamians training under the supervision of coach George Cleare at the University of Georgia, won the men’s 400 metres at the Georgia Tech Invitational in 45.24 seconds. The IAAF qualifying time is 45.40. Gardiner’s nearest rival was Christopher Giesti of Notre Dame in 45.95.
Lanece Clarke, the other Bahamian at the meet, was second in the women’s 400m in 52.71, just shy of her personal best of 52.43 that she ran last year. She was also short of the IAAF Worlds qualifying time of 52.00. Winning the race was Margaret Bamgbose, also of Notre Dame, in 51.97.
Cleare, an assistant coach at the University of Georgia, said the focus is for both Gardiner and Clarke to qualify for the World Championships and so far, Gardiner has achieved the goal.
“As it warms up we tend to get faster so the trick is to adjust the training loads and intensities systematically to allow the athletes windows for maximum adaptation,” Cleare said. “Training has been going well and we have had no major setbacks. That being said we hope to spend the next few weeks training and getting fully healthy so that we will be ready for the World Championships.”
Cleare said his programme is about the future and, as their coach, he has an obligation to nurture and develop the athletes that will not only compete at the 2016 Olympic Games but also at the 2020 games and beyond.
“Gardiner ran a relatively good race as it relates to executing a good race model. He said he felt good and feels he will go a lot faster as the season progresses,” Cleare said. “He is starting to get healthy and hopes he can be in great form and fitness over the next few weeks.
“Clarke had a tough lane draw but is showing that she is becoming more of a veteran at this. She ran a solid race out of lane eight (52.71 over 400m) and we now have a really good idea about what we need to do to improve in order to hit the qualifying mark.”
Cleare said Clarke feels that her race is coming together this season and she looks forward to getting back to training to work out the kinks and focus more on her race model.
While the Bahamian connection was at The Flats at the George Griffin Track, jumpers Trevor Barry and Raymond Higgs made their season debuts and sprinter Tynia Gaither continued to perform at the 57th annual Mt SAC Relays. Meanwhile, Shavez Hart was at the Michael Johnson Classic in Waco, Texas.
At the Mt SAC Relays at the Hilmer Lodge Stadium in Walnut, California, Barry soared back on the runway after sitting out last year with a groin injury. Barry, competing for Bahamas/WAC, cleared 2.25 metres or 7-feet, 5 3/4-inches for third place in the men’s high jump. Guowei Zhang of Nike China won the event with 2.35m (7-8 1/2) and American Mike Mason of the Valleys Royals got second with 2.28m (7-5 3/4).
Higgs, also representing Bahamas/WAC, picked up a sixth place in the men’s long jump with a leap of 7.76m (25-5 1/2). Jeff Henderson of NAI won with 8.50m (27-10 3/4). An international field saw Yohei Sugai of the Japan National Team taking second (8.18m/26-10), Prem Kumar Kumarav of India was third with 8.04/26-41/2) and Tyrone Smith of Bermuda was fourth in 7.94m/26-4 1/2) and Norris Frederick of ITG Elite was fifth (7.79m or 26-1 3/4).
Gaither, competing for the University of South Carolina, was fifth in the women’s 100m in 11.22 that was won by Jenna Prandini of Oregon in 10.92. Gaither also contested the 200m where she got sixth in 23.10 with Prandini completed the double sweep in 22.42.
Gaither anchored USC to a second place in the 4 x 100m in 43.38. The Nike A team, made up of Mandy White, English Gardner, Kimberley Duncan and Nigerian Blessing Okagbare, won the race in 43.05.
At the Clyde Hart Track and Field Stadium in Waco, Hart, representing the Texas A&M Aggies in his senior year, clocked 10.10 to place second in the men’s 100m. The race was won by Baylor’s sophomore Trayvon Bromwell in 10.02.
Hart also ran on the Aggies’ 4 x 100 relay team that did not finish the race.