Thu | Jun 20, 2024

Double middle-distance milestones

Coach Elliott hoping records will inspire more young Jamaican athletes to seek excellence in 800m, 1500m

Published:Monday | September 25, 2023 | 12:07 AMHubert Lawrence/Gleaner Writer
Adelle Tracey
Adelle Tracey
Mark Elliott
Mark Elliott
Natoya Goule-Toppin
Natoya Goule-Toppin
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THE 2023 season has seen both the women’s 800 and 1500 metres national records broken. Mark Elliott, who coached Natoya Goule-Toppin to the new 800m mark, hopes the double milestone will inspire young Jamaicans to strive towards excellence in the...

THE 2023 season has seen both the women’s 800 and 1500 metres national records broken. Mark Elliott, who coached Natoya Goule-Toppin to the new 800m mark, hopes the double milestone will inspire young Jamaicans to strive towards excellence in the two events.

Goule-Toppin cut her own Jamaican record from one minute 56.15 seconds to 1.55.96 last weekend in Eugene, Oregon, and at the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, last month. Adelle Tracey went well under the old 1500m mark of 4:01.84 by Yvonne Graham in 1995 with a run clocked in 3.58.77.

Asked if these performances might inspire young prospects, Elliott was positive.

“I hope all the young potential half-milers, milers, can see that and know they have it within them to do it and do it at the highest level,” he replied.

Elliot, who serves as director of track and field at Clemson University in the United States, is high on Jamaica’s potential in a wide range of disciplines. “The talent is there for almost every event. You know, you see it happening in the throws, and in the past, that wouldn’t be the case. You see it happening in the jumps. So I think it’s there, and it’s a good thing,” he offered.

Elliot has coached Goule-Toppin since she moved from South Plains Junior College in 2011 when her personal best was 2:01.45. Since then, she has won NCAA titles for both Louisiana State University and Clemson, a 2018 Commonwealth bronze, gold at the 2019 Pan-Am Games, and spots in the finals at the 2019 and 2022 World Championships and the 2021 Olympics.

He was philosophical about her semi-final exit in Budapest. Betrayed by a slow first lap, she missed qualification for what would have been her fourth straight major championship final.

“Unfortunately, we’re all human. We’re not machines, so we don’t do it the way it was supposed to be done. In the semi, unfortunately, she didn’t make it to the final, but she at least had a chance to show the world she can actually run,” the coach said.

Nevertheless, he thinks his charge has already done enough to earn a lofty place in the annals of Jamaican track and field.

“I have the utmost confidence in her, and she may go down in Jamaican history as, hopefully, one of the best half-milers ever. To run 1.55 at age 32, almost 33, I think that’s a record within itself,” he noted.

By the time Goule-Toppin became world-class, the Jamaica record was 1:57.88 by 2008 Olympic and 2011 World finalist Kenia Sinclair. Goule-Toppin lowered Sinclair’s record twice in 2018, firstly to 1.57.69 in Paris on June 30, 2018, and again on July 20 in Monaco to 1.56.15.