Release – In the nearly 50-year history of the CARIFTA Games, the regional Under-20 athletics showcase has nurtured World and Olympic champions like Pauline Davis-Thompson, Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie, Veronica Campbell, Usain Bolt, Kirani James, Keshorn Walcott, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, and Anderson Peters. Save for Walcott, all of those athletes were awarded the Austin Sealy Trophy as the most outstanding performers at various editions of the Games through the years. But none of them captured the trophy as an Under-17 competitor. And, along with Antigua and Barbuda’s Janill Williams, James and Peters are the only athletes from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States ever to have been adjudged the finest athlete at this meet.
That all changed when Adaejah Hodge of the British Virgin Islands completed her golden trifecta on the third night of the 49th edition of the CARIFTA Games in Kingston, Jamaica on Easter Monday. The 16-year-old, based in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, won the 100m in 11.29 seconds, the long jump in a windy 6.20m, and the 200m in 23.42 seconds, taking one title on each of the three nights of the regional competition, each in truly impressive fashion.
Hodge led BVI to their best finish ever at the regional festival of junior track and field. Her three medals (they also got gold in the U17 shot put through Savianna Joseph) represent a quarter of the gold medals her country has ever captured at this level! The BVI were third overall, matching the Bahamas in terms of gold medals won, with four. And to top it all off, Hodge got to meet athletics legends Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
Through Michelle Smith, the US Virgin Islands got their first gold medals ever, as she stormed to a meet record in the U17 400m hurdles, took silver in the 100m hurdles, then showed some of her truly incredible range with a first-place finish in the 800m run. The last should come as the least surprising, though, given that her mother is a former collegiate champion at that distance in the USA.
Antigua and Barbuda team celebrated their first gold medal since 2008. Dwayne Flemming captured the top spot in the boy’s U17 100m. Adding two bronze medals, the kids from Wadadli exited the Games with their best overall tally in the last 17 years.
The Commonwealth of Dominica also struck gold, as did Grenada, both in very familiar events. Dominica won their first gold since 2017, Treneese Hamilton’s women’s U20 shot put won the ninth championship they’ve ever won in the throws. Grenada’s Rayvohn Telesford threw for gold in the boys U17 javelin throw, the seventh time the Spice Isle has taken a javelin throw win since 2012. They’ve been winning in this event since the ’70s!
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines made off with two silver medals and three bronze. In terms of total medals, it’s the most they’ve ever won at a single CARIFTA, and continues their momentum from the last iteration of this meet, in 2019. Saint Lucia’s pole vault silver was their first medal since 2015. And Saint Kitts and Nevis got two bronze medals in the hurdles.
In 2023, the 50th staging of the CARIFTA Games will be in the Bahamas. The OECS will certainly seek to build on the foundation they have laid at Kingston.