(in photo from l to r: Marielle Hall, Chelsey Sveinsson, Team Bickle President Irwine Claire, Phyllis Francis, Claudia Francis)
By Christopher Hunt
Team Bickle’s all-star squad won two relays at the prestigious Gibson Relays in Kingston, Jamaica this weekend, smashing one meet record.
The team, mostly made up of New Yorkers, broke the meet record while winning the 4x800 Saturday in 8:41.92, besting a mark set by Jamaica’s Holmwood Tech in 2002 of 8:48.96. A squad of Marielle Hall (2:13.5), Phyllis Francis (2:11.1), Chelsey Sveinsson (2:10.6) and Claudia Francis (2:05.8) took the lead after Hall’s leg and kept extending. Team Bickle USA defeated Jamaican high schools Edwin Allen, which placed second in 8:51.57.
Hall, a senior at Haddonfield in New Jersey gave the lead to Phyllis Francis (Catherine McAuley), who handed off to Sveinsson (Dallas, Tx.) before Claudia Francis’s dynamic anchor.
“We were really nervous,” Claudia Francis said. “But we figured, hey, we had a chance to win, let’s go for it. The crowd was crazy.”
Whitney Fountain, Phyllis, Claudia and Briana Nelson (Greenville, S.C.) also won the 4x400 Sunday in 3:37.23. besting Manchester (3:39.91), Holmwood Tech (3:40.13), Vere Tech (3:41.06) and Edwin Allen (3:41.31). Fountain grabbed the lead on the first leg and the squad never relinquished.
Fountain was assigned Lane 8 to start. She had been hoping to receive an inside lane where she could chase the runners to her outside.
“I was banking on us being in a bottom lame,” she said. “I didn’t think we’d be in Lane 9. I was like, ‘I’m not going to be able to see anybody. I just have to break out and run my own race. I didn’t want to see anybody at all. I didn’t want to hear the crowd going, whoa, whoa, like someone was coming for me.”
Fountain, a Clemson-bound senior at Columbus in the Bronx never saw anyone until she passed the baton and her team never trailed. And when they won, they could feel the air change at National Stadium.
“It was really quick,” Fountain said. “When I was running I didn’t hear the crowd. When we won it was dead silent. They didn’t cheer for us. But it was crazy.”
Elizabeth Briasco (Queens HS for the Sciences) competed in the open high school mile and placed sixth in 5:16.81. Dana Walsh (Sacred Heart) was 10th in the race.
“It’s been a valuable experience,” Briasco said. “I’ve learned so much and most of it is from watching other people run and watching the more experienced athletes warmup, and seeing how they prepare for races. Even having Phyllis and Claudia and Chelsey here, just watching what they do, for me, was a really good learning experience. It was more of a learning experience than actually running.”
Team Bickle debuted at Gibson Relays last year and finished second in the 4x800 in a close race. Fountain, Walsh and Phyllis Francis competed with the American team last year.
“This is for the kids,” said Sean Phillips, a coach for Awesome Power track club who is also involved with Team Jamaica Bickle, which brought the American team to Gibson Relays. “Our kids have to start thinking internationally. We have so much talent in the US. You see the success with the Jamaican athletes at the Penn Relays. It’s because they have that experience early with international competition.”
TB also entered two boys’ events, finishing third in the 4x8 in 7:50.32, and running a non-qualifying 3:19.53 in the 4x400 prelims. Holmwood Tech won the boys’ 4x800, in 7:45.55, while Vere Tech won the boys’ 4x4, in 3:14.27, holding off Wolmer’s Boys (3:14.83).
In the open division, Usain Bolt ran in two relay races for his Racers Track Club. He teamed with Kenroy Anderson, Yohan Blake and Marvin Anderson to win the 4x100 in a world-leading 38.08. In the 4x4, the Racers finished 2nd to UTech, 3:05.33-3:05.77. Bolt was reported to have run 43.5 on the anchor leg.
The leading Jamaican college 4x100 performances were turned in by UTech, which ran 39.46 for fourth in the men’s race and 44.46 to win the women’s.
In the high school short relays, Manchester defeated Holmwood in the girls’ 4x100, 45.52-45.66, while Herbert Morrison won the 4x2 in 1:36.47, over Vere (1:37.40). St. George’s College dominated the boys’ short relays, winning the 4x100 (40.24) and 4x200 (1:26.27). Wolmer’s was 2nd in the 4x1 (40.38) and 3rd in the 4x200 (1:26.50), while Camperdown was third (40.74) and second (1:26.44).
- Jack Pfeifer contributed to this report.