The Nassau Guardian’s Team of the Year
SHELDON LONGLEY AND RANDY SMITH
Published: Jan 03, 2017
The last athletics season has truly been an up and down one for The Bahamas’ men’s 4x400 meters (m) relay team, but when it came for the team to produce the most, it stood tall on the world’s biggest stages.
The team experienced a number of setbacks this year, but constants like veteran quarter-milers Chris Brown and Michael Mathieu, and the gritty Alonzo Russell, held the group together. The team won silver at the IAAF World Indoor Championships, and bronze at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. It finished first in voting for The Nassau Guardian’s Team of the Year honor with 30 points, winning unanimously.
The quartet of Mathieu, Russell, Shavez Hart and Brown, in that order, started of the year with a historic silver medal at the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) World Indoor Championships in Portland, Oregon, USA. It was the first ever medal for The Bahamas in the men’s 4x400m at the world indoors. The country had come close a number of years, but had struggled through a decade of disqualifications, lack of legs and poor execution.
This year in Portland, the team finally came together indoors.
It was the only medal for The Bahamas at the global indoor meet last season, and it was done in a new national indoor record of 3:04.75. The United States won the gold medal in a world-leading time of 3:02.45, The Bahamas finished second, and Trinidad & Tobago rounded out the top three in a
national indoor record of 3:05.51.
There appeared to be some confusion surrounding the team midway through the athletics season as it was reported that athletes weren’t declaring their eligibility for meets, weren’t taking part in meets, and a number of injuries abounded. The BAAA used the turmoil surrounding the team as a reason to pull out of the prestigious Penn Relays, a relay carnival meet that the country had participated in every year since the introduction of the USA versus the World competition. The Bahamas uses the meet as a qualifier for senior global meets, but was a no-show in 2016.
Heading into the Olympics there were few jaw-dropping times among Bahamian quarter-milers, leaving many to surmise that it would be extremely difficult for The Bahamas to defend its Olympic title. In fact, The Bahamas wasn’t listed among the medal favorites going into the Olympics.
With a couple of medal contenders suffering disqualifications in the semi-finals, Great Britain and Trinidad & Tobago, The Bahamas seized the moment and came through for the bronze. The team of Russell, Mathieu, Steven Gardiner and Chris Brown came through for the bronze in a season’s best time of 2:58.49. Stephen Newbold ran the rounds. The U.S. won in 2:57.30, and Jamaica claimed the silver in 2:58.16.
For The Bahamas, in particular Chris “The Fireman” Brown who was running in his final Olympics, the bronze was as good as gold. It was a sense of accomplishment for the squad, after being out of the medal picture prior to the start of the event. Brown anchored the team home to that bronze - the third straight Olympic medal for The Bahamas in the event, and fourth in the past five Olympics. The Bahamas now has a gold, silver and two bronze over that span.
As mentioned, as far as individual times, there weren’t any jaw-dropping performances. Gardiner (44.46), Russell (45.25), Mathieu (45.42) and Brown (45.56), highlighted the individual season highs. For the well accomplished Brown, it was the first time in four seasons and just the fifth time since the turn of the century that he didn’t run under 45 seconds in a calendar year. It was also his slowest season-best time over that span, signalling that his career is winding down.
Brown hasn’t officially announced a retirement just yet, but is expected to call it a career in the not too distant future.
The women’s 4x400m relay team smashed the national record without Olympic Champion Shaunae Miller - a crowning glory moment for the discipline in The Bahamas, enabling the team to finish second in voting for The Nassau Guardian’s Team of the Year honor with 26 points.
The Bahamas solidified its Olympic spot in the event with a spirited run at the Blue Marlin Classic last season. The team of Christine Amertil, Lanece Clarke, Carmiesha Cox and Shaquania Dorsett, ran 3:30.34 at the Blue Marlin Classic. That time, when added to the 3:28.46 national record done by Clarke, Amertil, Katrina Seymour and Miller, at the 2015 Beijing World Championships, produced an aggregate fast enough to qualify The Bahamas for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The Bahamas went to those Olympics, and the team of Anthonique Strachan, Cox, Amertil and Clarke, ran a new national record of 3:26.36. The team failed to make the final, but finished 11th overall.
Amertil is retiring, but with young and talented sprinters like Miller, Strachan, Cox and Dorsett, the event is in good hands moving forward.
It’s unusual that a foreign national team would be included in the list for The Nassau Guardian’s Team of the Year, but Great Britain’s national baseball squad included nine Bahamians, seven of whom started. The group of nine minor leaguers, spread all across the United States, helped Great Britain come within one game of qualifying for the 2017 World Baseball Classic. The team finished third in voting for the honor, with 24 points.
The Scottsdale Vixens female volleyball squad, which won a 12th straight New Providence Volleyball Association (NPVA) title, finished fourth in voting, with 22 points; and The Bahamas’ senior men’s volleyball squad and beach volleyball squads, finished tied for fifth with 16 points each. The Bahamas men’s volleyball squad qualified for the Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (CAZOVA) Championships in Trinidad & Tobago next summer, and also the next round of the 2018 International Volleyball Federation’s (FIVB) World Championships qualifying process.
The Bahamas’ senior men’s national beach soccer squad won a few tournament games against higher ranked nations in Europe this past summer, and played tough matches against others - all in preparation for the 2017 International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) Beach Soccer World Cup that gets underway at the end of April in The Bahamas.
The Bahamas’ 15-17 Boys 50m Free relay team of Gershwin Greene, N’hyn Fernander, Jared Fitzgerald and Miller Albury, from the CARIFTA Swimming Championships, finished seventh in voting with 13 points; the C.C. Sweeting Cobras Senior Boys basketball squad was eighth with six points, the Johnson’s Lady Truckers and the JC Blue Water Jets softball teams finished tied for ninth with five points apiece, and the Mail Boat Cybots was 11th with two points.