Women, Like Men, Making Inroads in the Relays

When it comes to athletics, The Bahamas is a nation of relays, and although it’s been the men’s 4×400 meters (m) relay that has been the cream of the crop in recent times, the women’s unit has made significant inroads.

The Bahamas men’s 4x400m relay team has finished second at two successive world relays, and is gearing up for a third straight strong appearance at home this year. The women’s 4x400m relay team is optimistic about this year’s world relays coming off two strong global appearances and a national record without its fastest runner.

The Bahamas women’s 4x400m squad qualified for its first global meet in 2009, representing the country at the Berlin World Championships.
Since then, The Bahamas had representation in two of the next three world championships in the women’s 4x400m, and was one of the top 16 teams making it to last year’s Olympics. The country has failed to reach the final of the event each time, but the progress made has been exemplary.

Last year at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, the Bahamian quartet broke the national record, and were three spots short of making the final. Stunningly, they did it without Olympic Champion in the women’s 400m Shaunae Miller. The team of Lanece Clarke, Anthonique Strachan, Carmiesha Cox and Christine Amertil, in that order, ran a new national record time of 3:26.36, slaughtering the old national mark by over two seconds. It was the first time The Bahamas was ever represented in the women’s 4x400m at the Olympics, and they missed a spot in the final by less than a second.

Hence, the optimism for this year’s International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) World Relay Championships, set for April 22-23, at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.

“The women’s 4×4 is coming,” said Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations’ (BAAA) President Rosamunde Carey. “In fact, they are already here. Those young ladies put in an awesome performance at the Olympics last year. Led by veteran Christine Amertil, they gave it their all.

“A lot of those young ladies were at their first Olympics and they were jittery. They were determined to make it into the final, and they came very close to doing so. The sky is the limit for them, and Christine has vowed to come back and help them again. They are all excited and ready to go for this year’s world relays.”

Amertil, 37, has represented the country at four Olympics. She has an exceptional group of quarter-milers around her, and with runners like Miller, Katrina Seymour and Shaquania Dorsett added to the mix, the future looks extremely bright for the women’s 1,600m relay team.

The team of Clarke, Amertil, Seymour and Miller, in that order, ran the former national record of 3:28.46 at the 2015 Beijing World Championships, and the team of Clarke, Cox, Amertil and Dorsett, in that order, ran 3:30.34 at the Blue Marlin Classic last year for the other qualifying time for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. They would have to finish in the top eight at the third world relays in The Bahamas this year, to automatically book their ticket for the London World Championships.

According to Carey, the local program is on the move, and it all starts at the grassroots level. They are looking to develop much more talent going forward.

“The Bahamas is known for the 400 meters,” she said. “There are a number of girls coming up who will add to the relay pool, and now, they have someone like Shaunae, the Olympic Champion, to look up to. Shaunae wasn’t able to assist the girls last year because of the fall in the 400m final, but she will be a part of the team this year. Also, Christine said that as long as she is healthy, she will assist, and Katrina is looking very good. Shaquania is there as well, so there are a number of girls who could contribute.

“The goal is to have them qualify for the world championships at the world relays right here at home, and if that doesn’t happen, we have the Penn Relays right after that. We have to get all of our teams qualified. We have a training camp planned 10 days before the world relays so that they could work on their synergy and be ready. Also, we have relay coordinators who are very experienced – veteran coaches have stepped forward and are prepared to work with them.”

There is now less than 100 days before the staging of the third IAAF World Relay Championships, here in The Bahamas. Once again, the host nation is expected to field teams in at least six of the nine events – the men and women’s 4x100m relays, the men and women’s 4x200m relays, and the men and women’s 4x400m relays. There is a chance that the country will field a team in the mixed 4x400m relay as well, which is new to the world relays calendar this year.

“We are getting commitment from all of our athletes for the world relays,” said Carey. “We’re so excited about it. The team is working hard to ensure that this comes off, and that The Bahamas is well represented. To have this event come here again is truly historic. The LOC (local organizing committee of the world relays) brought in some new blood this year, and now there is much more depth, and the team will be able to gain experience.”

All three of the world relays have been held in The Bahamas, making the event truly significant. Rarely is any IAAF sporting event hosted in the same city and country on three successive occasions, particularly the first three editions of a global event such as the world relays. In addition, the 2019 world relays are set for The Bahamas as well.

“Now that we have this event in our backyard again, the focus is to build our teams,” said Carey, who is also the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the world relays. “We have to start from the ground up in our programs. We’re going into the Family Islands and seeking talent, not just in Abaco because we know that there is a good program in Moore’s Island, but we are looking all over The Bahamas.

“We are going into CARIFTA 2017 with a focus of development. We have to get our athletes through the junior stage and ready for the next stage of their careers so that they could continue to excel in athletics as seniors. This year, our goal is to get all four of our relay teams qualified for the world championships, and we’re confident we could do that.”

The only global meet in which The Bahamas was able to qualify all four relay teams was the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, Russia. Carey is confident that they could duplicate that at the London World Championships this year, and in order to do so, she said that it is imperative that they have a good showing at the world relays, particularly with it being held here in The Bahamas once again.