Brenden Vanderpool had one of those special performances at the 50th Oaktree CARIFTA Games this past weekend that will have spectators talking about it for years to come.
The only disappointing aspect of the event is that most of the fans in attendance left after the under-20 boys 4×100 meters (m) final on Saturday night, not sticking around for the mixed 4x400m relay or the open boys pole vault final and, coincidentally, The Bahamas won both events. Perhaps, they didn’t know what was to come.
The CARIFTA Games wrapped up on Easter Monday night at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium in Nassau, The Bahamas.
Vanderpool certainly didn’t let the sparse crowd take away from his performance as he rose to the occasion and put on a show for those in attendance. The Bahamian pole vaulter broke a 36-year-old national record that belonged to his father Brent Vanderpool and also erased the CARIFTA record.
Last year at the CARIFTA Games, Vanderpool soared 4.35m (14’ 3-1/4”). This year, he was nearly a meter higher, jumping an astonishing 5.06m (16’ 7-1/4”). The old national record of 4.89m (16’ 0-1/2”) was set by the older Vanderpool in 1987 – one of the oldest national records on the books – and the former CARIFTA record of 5.05m (16’ 6-3/4”) was established by Thiery Baptiste of Martinique in Nassau in 2018.
The Bahamian star pole vaulter is coached by his father whose national record he broke. It will likely go down as one of the all-time great stories of succession in sports in The Bahamas.
“This feels fantastic. I’m ecstatic. Praise be to God,” exclaimed the younger Vanderpool on Saturday night. “I just have to give credit to my dad and my coach Brent Vanderpool. He’s my mentor and my image. It’s an honor to break his national record. I think I was able to put a smile on his face because I was able to prove myself and get it done. I can’t forget my mom, too. She was by my side straight through. I’m just so ecstatic right now. I was finally able to do it and it feels great.”
On Sunday night, Vanderpool entered the competition at 4.30m (14’ 1-1/4”) and cleared it on his first attempt. He then passed on his next four heights before challenging the 4.55m (14’ 11-1/4”) position. By this time, there were just two jumpers remaining in the competition – Vanderpool and Jeremiah Felix of St. Lucia. Felix passed at 4.55m and went over the bar on his first attempt at 4.60m (15’ 1”) to put the pressure on Vanderpool, or so he thought. Vanderpool cleared 4.55m on his second attempt, then went over the bar on his first attempt at 4.70m (15’ 5”) to retake the lead. Felix had no response.
Vanderpool put the icing on the cake, passing at 4.75m (15’ 7”) before going after the national and CARIFTA record at 5.06m. It was a spectacular display of pole vaulting as he cleared it on his first attempt to seal the gold, and new national and CARIFTA record. Even more remarkable, at just 18, Vanderpool still has a year of eligibility left at the CARIFTA Games. He is expected to go after a third straight CARIFTA title at the 51st CARIFTA Games in St. George’s, Grenada, next year.
The Bahamas got two medals in the pole vault competition as Tyler Cash finished with a best
clearance of 4.45m (14’ 7-1/4”) for the bronze medal. Felix won the silver, bowing out at 4.60m. Cash was ecstatic with the bronze.
“You don’t experience things like this on a regular basis. I’m here representing my country and it feels amazing,” he said. “I have to give love to my mom, my family and my friends at home. I’m ecstatic to be here competing and to come out with a medal is a blessing. I’m trying to make it to the Olympics one day. Brenden broke the record and we celebrate him, but next year, I’m going for that gold,” he added.
Cash, too, has a year of eligibility remaining.
In one of the hurdles events in the evening session on Easter Monday, The Bahamas got an additional gold medal as the original gold medalist Demario Prince of Jamaica was disqualified for what was later revealed as a false start. The infraction was brought to the attention of officials late Monday evening and Prince was subsequently disqualified.
Otto Laing was fantastic for The Bahamas, crossing the finish line in a blazing personal best time of 13.49 seconds in the under-20 boys 110m hurdles. He was originally regarded as the silver medalist, but was later upgraded to gold based on the disqualification of the Jamaican athlete.
“I wasn’t expecting to see that time on the clock seeing that my PR (personal best time) before this was half of a second slower. To run that time on the big stage is crazy. I’m ecstatic,” said Laing after his race. “That’s only through God. No matter if it is raining or what the weather is like, if you have to run, you have to run and that is what I did. I showed up when it matters and I’m glad with that.”
It was a wet and soggy night as scattered rain occurred all night. Laing didn’t let that stop him as he got a blazing start and came through for the impressive personal best time. The other Bahamian in that race, Tayshaun Robinson, who beat Laing at the ICS Security Concepts Bahamas National High School Track and Field Championships/CARIFTA Trials two weeks prior, was originally fifth in the race but upgraded to fourth after the disqualification. He was timed in 14.05 seconds.
In the longer hurdles on Easter Sunday, Darvinique Dean and Shimar Bain won medals for The Bahamas.
Dean rebounded from an eighth-place finish in the under-17 girls 400m the night before to win a silver medal in the under-17 girls 400m hurdles on Sunday. She stopped the clock in 1:02.50, about a half of a second off her personal best time.
“After my performance in the 400, I was torn down a bit and just hungry,” said Dean. “Even though I didn’t come first, I got a medal and I’m happy with that.”
Jamaican Jody-Ann Daley won the gold in 1:01.05 and her teammate Rhianna Lewis won the bronze medal in 1:02.61. The other Bahamian in that race Bayli Major finished fourth, just outside of the medal picture, in 1:02.92.
“This is both of our (Dean and Major) first CARIFTA, and hats off to her as well. She did an amazing job. I’m sure there is many more to come for both of us,” said Dean.
Major said she went out there, did her best and will refocus and certainly go much faster next time.
In the under-20 boys version of the 400m hurdles, Shimar Bain made sure he won a medal in his final CARIFTA Games, finishing third in 52.48 seconds. Jamaican Roshawn Clarke won the gold in 49.92 seconds and his teammate Antonio Forbes secured the silver with a time of 51.72 seconds.
“This is my last CARIFTA and I wanted to leave with something, especially with this CARIFTA being at home. I was also looking for a PR (personal best time) and I was able to get it, so I’m grateful for that,” said Bain.
This year’s CARIFTA Games will be remembered as one of the more action-packed and engaging editions of the event in its history. There were concerts, shows, gatherings and even a fun run/walk, the “Let’s Move Bahamas” CARIFTA Fun Run/Walk, surrounding the 50th Oaktree CARIFTA Games.
The Bahamas finished second to Jamaica for a fourth straight time, winning nine gold, 12 silver and 20 bronze for 41 total medals. Jamaica won CARIFTA track and field for a 37th straight time, collecting 38 gold medals, 21 silver and 11 bronze for 70 total medals. Trinidad and Tobago was third behind Jamaica and The Bahamas with five gold medals, seven silver and 10 bronze for 22 total medals.