Jamaica has not had much success in the middle distances despite their rich track & field history. Only Kenia Sinclair, Natoya Goule and Simoya Campbell have had relative success in the 800 metres event on the international scene in recent times.
All three women competed at the Rio Olympics last year and all have competed at an IAAF World Championships.
With veteran Kenia Sinclair near 37 years old and on her way out, it is the perfect time for US-born Jazmine Fray to enter the fray. She is the number one seed in the women 800m entering this weekend’s JAAA National Senior Track & Field Championships where she is slated to go up against Goule, Campbell and Kimarra McDonald among others.
The Texas A&M sophomore, whose mother is Jamaican, had a fantastic collegiate season.
She broke the NCAA 800m Indoor record in February at the Clemson’s Tiger Paw Invitational with a stunning 2 minutes, 0.69 seconds, beating the previous collegiate record of 2:00.75 set in 2005 by Tennessee’s Nicole Cook. Later in the meet Fray split 51.99 on the third leg for the Aggie 4x400m relay team, which won in a then world-leading 3:29.74 that just missed the Texas A&M school record of 3:29.72.
With the record run, which surprised everyone including Fray herself, she chopped all of four seconds of her previous indoor school record (2:04.76) she set just two weeks prior at the Razorback Invitational.
The relatively unknown Fray was given National Athlete of the Week honors for the week of February 14th by the USTFCCCA .
A front-runner herself, Fray benefitted from a fast pace set by compatriot and three-time NCAA 800m champion Goule through 600m (1:29.32).
The just turned 20 year old carried the record-setting momentum to the SEC Indoor Track & Field Championships where she retained her 800m conference title with 2:02.62, significantly improving on the time (2:07.28) she won the title with in 2016 as a freshman.
With the title win and the NCAA record, Fray was added to the prestigious Bowerman watch list in March.
Two months later she added the SEC Outdoor 800m title (2:02.00) to her SEC Indoor 800m title. She finished just outside the medals (4th – 2:03.00) at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships, becoming the first Aggie female to place in NCAA Indoor 800m final since Suzanne Sheffield in 1983.
Fray, who was outstanding at the high school level for Kellenberg Memorial High (is the 600m school record holder), is working her way to becoming a Texas A&M all-time great after just two seasons at the University.
She has set and re-set the 800m indoor school record several times and currently ranks high on the ‘Aggie’ all-time list in four indoor events – 400m (12th – 53.91), 800m (school record 2:00.69), 1,000m (school record 2:43.15) and mile (2nd – 4:44.87).
She ended her second collegiate season ranked No.1 and No.3 in the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor rankings respectively. Only the Bowerman finalist Raevyn Rogers (1:59.10) and Hanna Green (2:01.28) ran faster than Fray outdoors in the entire NCAA.
Decision to try to make Jamaican team
Goule’s pacing pulled her to the collegiate record but the former LSU athlete was also influential in her decision to come to the Jamaica National Trials and attempt to make the 2017 IAAF World Championships team to London.
The 26 year old has complained about the lack of competition in the middle distances in Jamaica and encouraged the Long Island, New York native to try to make the Jamaican team.
She is one of only two Jamaicans who have met the World Championships qualifying standard (2:01.00) with Goule being the other with her season best of 2:00.56 (ranked 29th in the world).
And the decision was a smart one, as all of 15 US female 800m runners have run faster than Fray (ranked 51st in the world) this season with Brenda Martinez ranked highest at No.5 (1:58.78) on the IAAF season rankings.
She will be motivated to make up for the disappointment of not making the final of the 800m at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, finishing 11th overall with 2:05.70 after entering with the fastest time (2:03.65) from the West Preliminary qualifying round.