By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
IT was another dose of victory for the Bahamian duo of Lanece Clarke and Steven Gardiner.
Fresh off their appearance on the Bahamas’ team for the IAAF/BTC World Relays Bahamas 2015 at the Thomas A Robinson National Stadium earlier this month, the pair of quarter-milers pulled of victories in the women’s and men’s 400 metres in the Georgia Invitational at the Spec Towns Track at the University of Georgia over the weekend.
Clarke, who was named to both the 4 x 200 and 4 x 400 teams but didn’t get to compete, lowered her season’s best in her triumph in the one-lap race in 52.41 seconds. She previously ran 52.71 in Atlanta, Georgia on April 18. Clarke ran away from the field that was followed by Santina Williams of Alabama State in 53.23 for second.
Also at the meet, Clarke picked up a second place finish in the 200m in 23.85. The race was won by Farah Jacques of Ottawa in 23.76.
Gardiner, on the other hand, ran away with the men’s 400m title in 45.66, which was just shy of his personal and season’s best of 45.24 that he ran on April 18 to dip under the qualifying time of 45.50 for the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China in August.
His nearest rival was David Dickens, unattached, who did 47.01 for second.
Another victory for the Bahamas at the meet came from Bianca ‘BB’ Stuart, who took the women’s long jump crown with a leap of 6.72 metres or 22-feet, 3/4-inches to go over the World Championship qualifying mark of 6.70 (22-11 3/4). Stuart matched the QM in a meet on April 4 in Auburn, Alabama. She now has the seventh best mark in the world so far this year.
And Jamial Rolle, who was not named to the IAAF World Relays, had to settle for sixth place in the men’s 100m in 10.66. Kameron Cowan, running unattached, won the race in 10.35.
George Cleare, who coaches both Clarke and Gardiner in Georgia, said he was very pleased with their performances.
“This time of the year, it’s a pleasant surprise to see where they are,” said Clarke, an assistant coach at the University of Georgia. “We’re pushing them to the ultimate goal this year, which is to qualify for the World Championships. So I think they are right on target. They should be able to come home for the trials and do very well.”
Cleare was referring to the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations National Championships to be held in June and will serve as the final trials for athletes to qualify for the World Championships.
“She’s coming into her own. I think she’s starting to become more of an individual runner rather than a relay runner,” said Cleare of Clarke, who got her first taste of international competiion at the Commonwealth Games last year in Glasgow, Scotland. “Hopefully, if we can get her to compete in more individual events, it will increase her chances of getting into a major final and eventually start winning medals.”
As for Gardiner, a native from Abaco and a product of coach Anthony Williams in Moore’s Island, said it shows that Gardiner is in 45 shape and should be a real contender this year.
“It bodes well that with a lot stronger field, he should be able to run even faster,” said Cleare of Gardiner, who resembles 2009 World champion Avard Moncur in height and his slender build. “He should be able to run a lot faster, but I’m looking forward to him competing later this year when he comes home for the nationals.”
With the type of talent they both possess, Cleare said they both can be strong contenders for the Bahamas.
This week, Clarke is expected to participate in a mid-week meet in Atlanta. Depending on how well she does, Cleare said she could run on the weekend when she teams up with Gardiner once again.
“It’s all about fine tuning and getting ready for the nationals,” Cleare said. “We’re hoping that they will both be ready to come home and compete very well.”