Great super Champs rivalries - Facey versus McLaughlin-Whilby
In 1999, the first year of the merged ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls Athletics’ Championships (Champs), the ladies from St Jago High School continued a winning streak begun in 1996. Things changed in 2000, as Vere Technical High School regained the team title that it had last won in 1993. A new contender had appeared by then. Holmwood Technical High School challenged the old order and eventually took over top spot.
Vere fought St Jago and the Holmwood challenge. The battle produced a rivalry that illuminated the early years of the merger – Vere’s Simone Facey versus Anneisha McLaughlin-Whilby of Holmwood. McLaughlin-Whilby represented change at the top and drew attention with her signature Holmwood unicorn hairstyle. Facey was the symbol of Vere determination to dominate once more.
Their encounters provided some of the most memorable races in Champs history.
They first met in 2000, in the Class Three 200m final. After a loss to Diane Dietrich of Immaculate Conception in the 100m, Facey got her gold medal with a win over 400m record breaker McLaughlin-Whilby and then stepped up to Class Two in 2001. Still in Class Three, the ever smiling McLaughlin-Whilby rewrote the record books with blazing times of 23.11 seconds and 52.52 seconds for the 200 and 400m respectively.
The 200m mark stood until 2017 when it fell to the outstanding Kevona Davis. However, the 400m record has not been approached since it was set.
Facey had done the Class Two sprint double in 2001 and duly retained her 100m crown in a Champs relocated to the GC Foster College for Physical Education and Sport. With McLaughlin-Whilby winning the 400m, a titanic battle ensued in the 200m. Her endurance won over Facey’s speed and together, they battered the record, 23.13 to 23.43 seconds.
Later that year, they both won silver medals in individual events at the World Junior Championships. Later, they were teammates on a winning 4x100m quartet.
Their last Champs meeting came in 2004. Facey won the 100m in 11.22 seconds. Only her Vere predecessor Veronica Campbell-Brown had run faster at Champs and she headed to the 200m with a full head of steam. Having done the Class Two 200/400m double-double, McLaughlin-Whilby debuted in Class One with a 400m win and blazed the turn in the highly anticipated 200m final.
That was when Facey shifted into high gear and zoomed past to win in 22.71 seconds, a Class One and national junior record. It was a glorious double and a great way to end her Champs career. That time is still the Champs record and it took a brilliant run by Briana Williams at last year’s World Under 20 Championships to dislodge it as the Jamaica junior record.
McLaughlin-Whilby did the Class One sprint double in 2005 to end her Holmwood days with 10 gold medals won in individual events.
With their Champs days behind them, McLaughlin-Whilby and Facey placed fifth and sixth respectively in the 2009 World Championships 200m final and Facey got a gold medal in the 4x100m. Both have battled injuries, but McLaughlin-Whilby moved to the 400m with some success. In 2016, she helped Jamaica to the runner-up spot at the Rio Olympic Games with strong performances in the heats and final of the 4x400m relays.