When he left Jamaica to take up a full scholarship at the University of Arkansas just two years ago Omar McLeod was looking up to sprint hurdlers Hansle Parchment and Andrew Riley as heroes and mentors. After an impressive freshman season where he broke a number of school records, McLeod returned in his sophomore season in even better shape, crowning himself in glory on the US Collegiate circuit where he won the NCAA Men’s 110m title.
Strong winds on the day of the collegiate final prevented McLeod from dipping below the psychological 13s barrier, but the former Kingston College and Manchester High athlete would not be denied on his home soil.
Returning to Jamaica with the intention of qualifying for the World Championships in Beijing, China, McLeod was now wearing the favourite tag, at the expense of Parchment and Riley at the JAAA/Supreme Ventures National Senior Athletics Championships and after an impressive semi-final in which he displayed perfect hurdling technique few doubted that the 21 year old would become the new national champion.
Out of the blocks like a flash of lightening in the final, McLeod led from start to finish although he was pressed all the way to the line by the defending champion, Parchment, who ran a seasons best 13.07s for second place. When the flash time showed 12.97 it proved to be a double victory for the new national champion as he was claiming his first senior title while registering the first sub-13 clocking of his career.
A clearly ecstatic McLeod described it as a “scintillating feeling” to have finally broken the 13s barrier, of which all male sprint hurdlers dream.
“It is a spectacular feeling, I am tremendously happy with my performance,” he continued. “At NCAA’S that wasn’t the perfect time, God put it off but this time I knew if I had the perfect wind… I can run that “12”. To God be the glory, he gave me right here in front of my home crowd.”
The always confident athlete said, “I am glad I made myself proud, my family, all glory to God. This is just an extra boost somewhat (sub 13), I am elated, I am ready for Beijing.
“I have gone pro now so I will be doing a couple of meets in the Diamond League to stay race sharp,” he said of his immediate plans ahead of the World Championships.
McLeod who now has the world leading time in the event, Olympic bronze medalist Parchment and Commonwealth champion Andrew Riley who was third in the race, will represent Jamaica at the World Championships.