It’s often said that records are made to be broken. By contrast, the Gibson-McCook Relay class 1 Boys’ 4×200 metre record seems intent on lasting forever. Set by Jamaica College on February 29, 1992 at the 19th staging of the meet, this record seems out of reach. The mark by Edward Clarke, Jermaine Grant, Rudolph Mighty and Carl McPherson – 1 minute 24.67 seconds – is the oldest relay record on the Gibson-McCook books. It is so good that it may even have scared off challengers.
Speaking in February 2019, Grant placed the record in the proper perspective. “The fact that the record was set in 1992, which is two lifetimes in terms of school ages is, I think, a proud achievement”, he said.
With JC head coach Michael Clarke away studying, his assistant Lloyd Clarke put together a special team. Edward Clarke, McPherson and Mighty had all won gold medals at Boys Championships in 1991 while Grant himself had honed his speed in the horizontal jumps.
“Mr Clarke, he likes to finish his event strong, right, and then with Edward as well running lead-off, just punished the opposition from the jump”, Grant recalled. “I ran second leg”, he continued. “The fastest person I was running against was Jahzeel (Gayle of Kingston College). We went around even.”
“It was over from the beginning”, he recorded, but with Mighty, the 1991 Pan-Am Junior Championships 200 metre bronze medallist and 1991 class 1 400 champion McPherson closing, Jamaica College set the record solo. Excelsior High School was a distant runner-up. Grant, who would win a bronze medal in the triple jump at Boys Championships, believes baton passing contributed greatly to the record. “You had to be careful because at the end of a 200, people get tired, but we did practice the handovers”, he analysed. “Lloyd Clarke did a good job with us”, he added, “so we did practice those, working the zones, a much shorter zone of course than the 4×100 but I think that is the underrated part of the 4×2.”
Motivation was there in abundance. JC had won the 1991 Boys Championships title on a recount after Calabar had gone home as the champion team. “I think leading into 1992, because of what happened with Champs in 1991, we always had a point to prove the entire season”, he explained. “So, every meet that we went to”, he elaborated, “we wanted to break every single record and that was a holdover from 1991.”
Grant is amazed that his team is still on top of the 4×200 pile. “It is because so many great athletes have come on the scene since then”, he remarked, “and even the year after I left, Michael McDonald at Vere with his team.”
The venerable mark got its closest scare 15 years after it was set. “I remember Michael Clarke told me to my face, I think it was 2007, that he was going to smash the record”, he reminisced of a chat with his old high school coach. That’s when a fine Calabar team, including future Olympic bronze medallist Warren Weir and coached by Clarke, zoomed to a time of 1 minute 24.79 seconds. “It didn’t happen”, surmised Grant.
The former JC star acknowledges that teams at the Gibson-McCook Relays now de-emphasize the 4×200 in favour of the 4×100 and 4×400. “I know that nowadays schools back away from the 4×2 and some coaches step back from the 4x2s”, he concurred, “but from my understanding, up until at least the mid-2000s, people were still going after it.” That wasn’t the case for the 1992 JC team as Mighty and McPherson ran all three relays. “It’s amazing”, Grant marvelled. “So, I think it’s a credit to us”, he said with his mind on his glory days at the Gibson-McCook Relays.
“I think circumstances have changed”, he concluded, “but even so, there are a lot of a great athletes and we still have it.”
HUBERT LAWRENCE has attended the Gibson-McCook Relays since the nineteen eighties.