#By BRENT STUBBS
#Senior Sports Reporter
#IT’S not how you start, nor how you get there. Most importantly, it’s how you finish.
#• The Finish Line, a weekly column, seeks to comment on the state of affairs in the local sports scene, highlighting the highs and the lows, the thrills and the spills and the successes and failures.
#RIGHT on the heels of the successful hosting of the IAAF/BTC World Relays Bahamas 2015, a number of elite athletes showed that they are in prime form, one month ahead of the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations’ National Championships.
#Heading the list was Shaunae Miller, who posted a world-leading time of 22.14 seconds to win the women’s 200 metres at the Jamaica Invitational at the national stadium in Kingston.
#In the process, Miller tied the meet record that was set by Jamaican Sheron Simpson back in 2006, but more importantly erased ‘Golden Girl’ Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie’s 16-year-old record of 22.19 seconds that she ran on July 3, 1999 in Paris, France.
#The race in Jamaica was so fast that it produced the top three times in the world as American Tori Bowie trailed in second in 22.29 and local race favourite Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce turned in a third place finish in 22.37.
#For Miller, it was her second of the five top fastest times in the world as she improved on her previous season’s best of 22.50 posted in Clermont, Florida on April 18, three days after she celebrated her 21st birthday.
#Miller, now training in Florida under coach Lance Brauman, is also listed in the top three in the world in the 400m with another personal best of 50.17 done in Gainesville, Florida.
#Miller, who had her coming out party at both the Olympics and World Championships, more than likely will have a high choice to make as she gets ready for the long summer, including an appearance at the Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada in July and the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China, in August.
#Does she go for the 200/400 double or will she just concentrate on either one of the races? She follows in the footsteps of ‘Golden Girl’ Pauline Davis-Thompson, who was the last Bahamian female athlete to attempt the feat, but she had to settle for a silver in the 200m at the IAAF World Indoor Championships and the same colour medal at the IAAF World Championships, both in 1995.
#Davis-Thompson, now retired and serving as an IAAF council member, went on to win a silver in the 200m at the 2000 Olympic Games, and was elevated to the gold after American Marion Jones was stripped of the victory after testing positive for a banned substance.
#The last Bahamian to win the World Championship title in the 400m was Tonique Williams in 2005, one year after she claimed the Olympic title in 2004. Ironically, Ferguson-McKenzie was the last Bahamian 200m champion in 2001, eight years before she claimed the bronze in 2009.
#Miller, who bypassed her collegiate eligibility at the University of Georgia after her freshman year to turn pro, should provide an exciting showdown at the Nationals over the weekend of June 27-28 when she goes head-to-head with Anthonique Strachan, who was awarded the IAAF’s Rising Star award a few years ago and even the veteran Ferguson-McKenzie, who at 39, is still a force to reckon with.
#One thing is certain.
#The Bahamas isn’t short of sprinters since the retirement of all of the ‘Golden Girls’, except for Ferguson-McKenzie. In addition to Miller and Strachan, there are some other contenders like Sheniqua ‘Q’ Ferguson and Tynia Gaither, who is having a great year at the University of South Carolina.
#Are they ready to step up and be a contender for a medal at the World Championships and the Olympics next year?
#Miller, considered the “real deal,” has already gotten a taste of international success at the senior level when she captured the bronze in the 400m at the World Indoor Championships last year in Sopot. And if her performances so far this year are any indication, she seems to be right on track to lead the Bahamas’ medal rush on the ladies’ side.
#On the men’s side, Steven Gardiner is enjoying a breakout year as a professional. Having gotten his first real test as a member of the men’s 4 x 400 metre relay team that placed second behind the USA at the World Relays, Gardiner has attained the qualifying standard for the World Championships with his PR of 45.24 on April 18.
#Over the weekend, the Moore’s Island product of coach Anthony Williamson picked up his second victory in 45.66 at the Georgia Invitational at the Spec Towns Track at the University of Georgia over the weekend. Also at the meet, his training partner coached by George Cleare, Lanece Clarke, took the women’s race in 52.41.
#And Bianca ‘BB’ Stuart won the women’s long jump crown with a leap of 6.72 metres or 22-feet, 3/4-inches to go over the World Championship qualifying mark of 6.70 (22-11 3/4). Her performance has her ranked in a two-way tie for sixth place in the world standings with Great Britain’s Lorrain Ugen.
#Those are the types of performances that have a lot of buzz around the Bahamas, not just as the host of two successful World Relays back-to-back, but a country to watch when the World Championships are held in August.
#Over the weekend, the Bahamas Basketball Federation held a meeting to announce its coaching staff for the various national teams this summer as well as its plans to improve on its national basketball championships and the implementation of a national high school tournament.
#The selection of the coaching staff was no surprise as Mario Bowleg was moved up from assistant to take over the men’s top spot, while Yolett McPhee-McCuin was returned to the women’s spot as both teams travel to Tortola, British Virgin Islands, for the CBC Championships in July.
#The main task for both coaches is to see if they can attract the top players to play on the teams.
#Will we see Jonquel Jones suit up for McPhee, her fellow Grand Bahamian idol, on the women’s side? Now that their collegiate seasons are over as well, will Grand Bahamian natives Lourawls ‘Tum Tum’ Nairn and Buddy Hield provide some spark for the men’s team?
#There’s just as much concern about those two teams as there is for Varel Clarke and Darrel Sears, who have been named as the head coaches for the under-17 girls and boys teams that will compete in the Centrobasket in Mexico and Puerto Rico in July and August respectively.
#We have just as much talent in the high schools, both in the Bahamas and the United States, to field two solid teams for these tournaments. It will be interesting to see if the coaching staff can assemble all of the talent together over the next few weeks to get the job done.
#The sound of ‘let’s play ball’ will be echoed tonight when the New Providence Softball Association opens its 2015 season in the Banker’s Field at the Baillou Hills Sporting Complex.
#There have been reports of a number of player movements within the six teams entered in both the men and women divisions, but it will come down to a wait-and-see process before it can be determined who will play with which team until they take to the field.