RISING STAR: Steven Gardiner, of Abaco, set a new national record in the 400 metres to highlight Saturday’s final day of competition at the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations’ National Open Track and Field Championships. The tall 19-year-old, now known as the ‘Rubberband Man,” came from behind to clock a blistering 44.27 seconds and shatter the previous mark of 44.40 set by Chris ‘Fireman’ Brown on June 6, 2008. Photos by Tim Clarke/Tribune Staff
Young rising star Steven Gardiner of Abaco achieved a new national record in the men's 400 metres to highlight Saturday's final day of competition at the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations' National Open Track and Field Championships.
The tall 19-year-old, now known as the 'Rubberband Man", came from behind to clock a blistering 44.27 seconds and shatter the previous mark of 44.40 that was set by Chris 'Fireman' Brown on June 6, 2008.
Not only did Gardiner lower his personal best of 44.64 that he ran in his first major international meet in Oslo on June 11, but he went under qualifying standard of 45.50 for the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China in August, taking the next three finishers with him. Michael Mathieu did 45.00 as he faded after a fast start to second place, while LaToy Williams, the 'sleeper", came through in 45.30 and Ramon Miller got fourth in 45.36 – all season best performances.
SHAUNAE MILLER is way ahead as she wins the 400 metres.
Gardiner's performance brought the curtain down on the two-day meet that saw its second national record breaking performance, coming on the heels of Bianca 'BB' Stuart's feat in the women's long jump on Friday night. And it came after Adanaca Brown, Shaunae Miller and Anthonique Strachan managed the World Championship standard in winning the women's 100m hurdles, 400m and 200m respectively.
Chavez Hart completed the sprint double with a qualifying standard in the 200m and Ryan Ingraham, Donald Thomas and Trevor Barry all matched the standard in the men's high jump.
Chris Brown skipped the marquee men's one-lap race to concentrate on the 200m, where he got second behind double sprint national champion Shavez Hart.
For Gardiner, it was a special victory, considering the fact that this is just the first year that the Moores Islander, who was developed by the Rev. Anthony Williams and is now trained under coach George Cleare at the University of Georgia, is contesting the 400m after switching from the 200m.
"I felt great about the race. With God's help, I was able to pull off the victory," an elated Gardiner said. "My coach told me that I had to get out and maintain the pace how we train in practice and when the 150 come, bring it home." In the process, Gardiner now holds the national record, something that he knew was coming sooner or later.
"I finally got it," said Gardiner, who would have liked to have done it with Brown in the race. "I had Michael (Mathieu) and Ramon (Miller) on my side and at the end of the day I won it."
Gardiner, who many Bahamians got to see in action when he ran on the third leg of the men's 4 x 400m relay at the second IAAF World Relays, hopes to continue to train hard and stay healthy for the trip to Beijing.
After his stunning performance, he was congratulated by his rivals in the race.
Mathieu, the oldest member of the field at 31, got out early and made up on the stagger as he led for the first half of the race. By the final bend, he was caught by Gardiner, who pulled away on the home stretch to electrify the crowd as they roared their approval.
"My plan was the try to win the 300m and just hold on. My training has been going really well and that was what I was training to do," Mathieu said. "But I'm glad that I was in the race for the national record. He's strong and I believe that he's going to do extremely well. So it was pretty good. Without Chris (Brown), it was still good overall, so I guess it didn't make a difference (with him not being here)."
Williams, 27, said the race was hard to predict, but as a tall person running out of lane two, he knew he had to step it up and he did at the right time down the home stretch to get right in the mix
"I think the performance here will only inspire me to go even faster," Williams said. "I was right there with the 44.2, so why not go and try to bat his time? He's now a target of mine, when though he will be hard to catch. I don't think it would have made a difference if Chris was there or not. We still had to run. We had the new national record holder in the race and it was faster than Chris has even ran."
Miller, slowly working his way back to form after suffering a foot injury at the initial World Relays in 2013, said he was proud of his accomplishment, considering that he was the only one of the top competitors training right at home. "To be here training in these conditions and be able to perform like that is just fantastic,” he said. “This is just my third met for the year, so I'm thankful for the time. I qualified. To me that's the most impressive thing, “But this was a spectacular race. Steven Gardiner ran a spectacular time. I told the guys, this guy is good. He have the height and he have the speed. He came out here and he put it all together and he got the national record."
Just before his record was thrashed, Brown had to settle for second place in the 200m in 20.58 as he trailed Hart, the Texas A&M senior who completed his sweep of the sprints in 20.45 to go under the Word's qualifying time of 20.50. Teray Smith, the Auburn University junior who has already qualified for Beijing in the 200m, had to settle for third in 20.66 after he got second in the century in 10.33.
"I feel real good,” said Hart, who was nursing a slight injury. “After my heats and I warmed back up for the second round, I felt real great. That was one of my best warm ups for a while.
"I felt pain free I came back out here, so I knew I would com out here and run very well. It was a good race. I came off the curve in first place and I felt them starting to contest me and so I just started pumping to the finish line."
Brown, the elder statesman of the field at 36, said he was just glad to come out of the event without any harm done. "I haven't ran any 200m since 2005, so to come out here today and run 20.5 shows that I'm in great shape and I look forward to the future," he said.
"I know those guys had already posted some fast times, so I got out and I executed my race, got to the straight away and just held on to what I had and I just thank the Lord for staying healthy."
Not knowing that his record was going to fall after he competed, Brown, who previously had the season's best time of all Bahamians of 44.54, said he is still pleased with the decision that he and his coach made and the focus was just to concentrate on the 200m.
There wasn't any concern about which event Shaunae Miller was leaning towards competing in this year. The new national 200m record holder made the decision to delight the crowd in her specialty in the 400m, running away from the pack in 50.69 to again go under the World Championship standard of 52.00. Lanece Clarke just missed the mark when she did 52.81 to go under the NACAC qualifier of 52.94 with Christine Amertil taking third in 52.75.
"The race went pretty good. I just have to give God thanks for allowing me to finish healthy," said Miller, who had one point in the season held the world leading times in both events of 22.14 (new national record) in the 200m and 50.17 in the 400m. "I was trying to do a few new things with the race model, trying to find the perfect one. But I'm still pleased with the time. I'm of the time I want to run, but everything will come back quickly."
Strachan, on the other time, dipped under the World Championship standard of 23.20 again in taking the 200m in 22.84, well ahead of her training partner and 100m champion Sheniqua 'Q' Ferguson, who did 22.28. Purdue University junior Carmeisha Cox got third in 23.68.
"The race went very well. I just give God thanks for allowing me to come out injury free in another event, even though the time wasn't what I really wanted, but it was a good race and the competition was really strong and I love to see how the juniors came out and they competed with the senior athletes," Strachan said. "The public came out and supported us, so I'm really grateful. It was just a pleasure to come home and run."
On her World Championship qualifier, Strachan said she's going to watch the replay of some of her previous races and try to improve on her performance, but she's definitely not satisfied with where she's at right now.
But Brown, a virtually newcomer to the national spotlight, said she couldn't ask for a better performance as she took the tape in 13.00 to match the World Championship qualifier. Purdue University's junior and new national record holder Devynne Charlton took second in 13.16 with Lavonne Idlette of the Dominican Republic third in 13.28.
"The race was magnificent for me," said Brown, who was coming of her second place finish in the 100m on Friday night. "I came a long way and I trained so hard for this race. My coach has prepared me and I can just say it's a job well done. It feels great. This is going to be my first time going to the World Championships and I'm excited, very excited."
All three high jumpers - Ingraham, Thomas and Barry - say they are looking forward to the summer and eventually the trip to Beijing after they all matched the World Championship qualifying height of 2.28m (7-5 3/4).
Other winners on the final day of competition were Raymond Higgs in the men's long jump with 7.78m (25-6 1/4); Tasman Evans in the men's 110m hurdles in 14.92; Benjamin Najman in the 5,000m in 15:14.53 as the lone competitor; Lester Taylor in the 800m in 1:54.25 and Tamara Myers in the women's triple jump with 13.12m (43-08 1/2).
The BAAA and the Bahamas Olympic Committee now have the task of naming the teams for the various international meets this summer. On Tuesday, the BOC will announce the team for the Pan Am Games in July in Toronto, Canada, while the BAAA have to determine who will go to the NACAC and the Word Championships. No date has been confirmed on when their announcement will come.