By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
400m Hurdler Kyron McMaster and Long Jumper Chantel Malone, have been named as the athletes heading the Top 30 Men’s and Women’s list over the last 50 years, following a six part Dec 26-31, BVI Athletics Association 50th Anniversary reflection series on VISports and Culture Facebook page, presented by JOMA Properties, by founding member and longest serving President, Rey O’Neal.
During the series, O’Neal, who at 21, became the BVIAA’s 2nd President behind Hubert Payne in November 1970 after the association was formed on September 19, 1970, recalled the development of the body he governed 1970-73 and for a second stint—1978-2003. He’s a member of the Association of Track and Field Statisticians, and an international correspondent for Track & Field News among other publications.
In coming up with the Top 30 athletes between 1970-2020, O’Neal said he put together a list of some of the athletes who he though distinguished themselves most in the last 50 years of the BVIAA. He said that he went with athletes who in one respect or another had created an impact either locally, regionally/international or at collegiate levels.
“The mistake that people would tend to make, would be how do you have Dale Abrahamson or Rose Phillips (from the 70s)…… they were the best of their generation and not only the best at that time in the British Virgin Islands,” O’Neal explained. “Rose was in all likelihood the best sprinter in the small islands of the Eastern Caribbean, taking away Barbados.”
Abrahamson won an 800m bronze medal in the Southern Games in Trinidad in 1971—the biggest invitational meet in the Caribbean—after recording a time of 1 minute 54.8 seconds in the first external competition for BVI athletes in St. Croix on November 22, 1970, a mark that 50 years later, stands as No 4 on the BVI All Time List. O’Neal noted that there were not many championships meets either at the time and the BVI could not participate in the CAC Games, Commonwealth Games, Pan Am Games or Olympic Games because the territory didn’t have and Olympic Committee until 1980. At 16, Phillips became the first BVI CAC Championships finalist, placing seventh in the Long Jump in 1975, in Ponce, Puerto Rico.
Other athletes such as Cecil Dawson an argument can be made for, O’Neal said as he was perhaps the best all round athlete the territory has produced. Gene Hodge won a Discus Throw medal in Barbados in 1971 and O’Neal said 10 years ago, he could not have imagined a BVI athlete throwing the shot put over 71 feet, which Eldred Henry has done and is No 2 in CAC competition and No 7 furthest among black throwers. Kyron McMaster has been world ranked 2nd, 3rd and 4th in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and is among the Top 20 All 400m Hurdlers. Chantel Malone became the first Sr. World Championships finalist in 2017 and was 7th in 2017. Tahesia Harrigan was ranked No 10 in the world in 2010 in the 100m. From the early days to present, the list he notes has quality on it.
“I think it’s a pretty comprehensive list and I tried to touch all the bases so to speak,” said O’Neal who was head of the association of 28 of its 50 years. “Some of the names go back quite a way and the generation of 2020 might not have the slightest idea who they were because they could be competing against their grandchildren.”
In his reflection, the veteran administrator who is also a former BVI Olympic Committee President and founding member, said there aren’t that many short sprinters—100/200m runners as one might think on the list. He noted that until Rikkoi Brathwaite won a Carifta Games U20 Boys 100m bronze medal in the Bahamas in 2018, there were no male medalists in the competition before him, although there had been many participants.
“In fact, only one prior to Rikkoi—that would be Derwin Scatliffe (U17 Boys) way back in 1987—he was the only other 100m finalist among the boys,” O’Neal pointed out. “We have a few 400m runners, not that many in the middle distances. It started off with Dale Abrahamson, then we got to Jerry Molyneaux and then Greg Rhymer. There are other athletes on the list who could have been pretty good 800m runners—Steve Augustine, Mario Todman and others—but they concentrated their efforts elsewhere. Among the throwers, we have Eldred Henry. Before him Eric Matthias was one of the better Discus Throwers at the Jr. level and he had a decent collegiate career as well.”
O’Neal noted that Omar Jones was a Jr. College Javelin Throw champion. Regarding multi events, Paul Hewlette still has the Decathlon national record dating back to 1987. “One who could have been and perhaps should have been but in the only actual Decathlon that he tried, he got injured, that was Rupert Solomon. We have not done very well in developing distance runners. Anderson Legair was the best that we had, the was the OECS 3000m Steeplechase record holder for a while. He’s one of the two athletes on the list from Virgin Gorda, which is not to say Virgin Gorda didn’t have good athletes, but they just never stuck with it very long. So, we’ve kept going and hopefully, when the 60th year comes around, we’ll have 60 athletes—although we have 60 athletes—30 men and 30 women—but we hope progress continues.”
Top 30 Men:
Men-1-4 (ranked)-Kyron Mc Master, Eldred Henry, Dion Crabbe, Keita Cline. 5-12(chronological) Dale Abrahamson, Dean Greenaway, Karl Scatliffe, Steve Augustine, Greg Rhymer, Eric Matthias, Rikkoi Brathwaite, Djimon Gumbs. 13-16: (chronological)-Paul Hewlett, Raymond Solomon, Anderson Legair, Jaleel Croal. 17-25 (No particular order)-Lindel Hodge, Guy Hill, Khari Herbert, Jerry Molymeaux, Omar Jones. Mario Todman, Ralston Varlack, Al Potter, Keron Stoute. 26-30: (No particular order)-Derry Maduro Fahie, Andre Pickering, Raphael Jack, William Archer, Rupert Solomon.
Men carried the association between 1970-2004 before making a recent resurgence while women came to the fore in 2005, with Tahesia Harrigan-Scott leading the charge.
“There has been a big step up since the early days,” O’Neal noted. “If you look at the list, of those in the generation before 1980, there was Rose Phillips and not much else.”
O’Neal said there are a number of throwers—more so in the boys than the girls—but there are some good girls. Tynelle and Trevia Gumbs and in more recent times, there have been a few Javelin Throwers—Akira Phillip, Britney Peters and Heptathlete Arianna Hayde. In the Long and Triple Jumps, he said there hasn’t been that many as the better jumpers have been primarily something else. Rose Phillips had the Long Jump record for a number of years and there were others who dabbled in the Long Jump and perhaps more so in the Triple Jump.
“For instance, I think Chantel Scatliffe could have been a pretty good Triple Jumper, but she was mainly a 400, 800/1500m runner,” he said. “High Jump, not that many. There were several who showed promise but, I can’t recall many except Chantel Malone who participated in the High Jump, outside of their junior career. In fact, Chantel did not do that either, because when she equaled the national record, it was in a local meet when she came home from the University of Texas—still a Jr. athlete.
Top 30 Women:
Women-1-4 (ranked)-Chantel Malone, Tahesia Harrigan-Scott, Ashley Kelly, Tynelle Gumbs. 5-12 (chronological order)- Rose Phillips, Tracy Bradshaw, Samantha John, Trevia Gumbs, Nelda Huggins, Tarika Moses, Lakeisha Warner, Beyonce Defreitas. 13-16 (chronological order)- Patricia Archibald, Chantal Scatliffe, Deya Erickson, Adaejah Hodge. 17-25(chronological order)-Bernice Romney, Stephanie Russ, Ereia Smith, Takola Creque, De Anna Wattley, Bianca Dougan, Karene King, Akira Phillip, Akresa Eristee. 26-30: Britney Wattley, Sanya Penn, Kanishque Todman, Arianna Hayde and Britney Peters.