Special Champs for Calabar's manager
For Andrea Hardware, long-time manager of Calabar's all-conquering track and field team, last week's successful ISSA-GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls' Athletics Championships campaign, though costly, carried a special tone, as her personal milestones married those of her teams.
Hardware, who also pointed to significant internal and external support, and a deeply rooted self-belief and commitment among team members and officials as their most valuable traits, also believes the recently installed synthetic track at the school and a shot at history were key motivators for her boys.
The Red Hills Road-based school retained the Mortimer Geddes trophy, in the process winning their 26th title overall. Calabar, which have sat at the top of the hill since 2012 were claiming their fifth consecutive victory, which represents the Lions' longest-ever winning streak at Champs.
This is Hardware's 10th year as the team's manager in a year when she will celebrate her 50th birthday. Not a bad way to kick off the early celebrations.
"It's an early birthday present," she smiled as the curtains came down on the championships inside the National Stadium on Saturday night.
"This is most significant for me; it's my 10th year managing the team, it's my 50th, it's a record for us at Calabar - we have never done five straight. It, of course, comes in a year when we got our own synthetic track, so this championship means so much more to us," added Hardware.
The manager, who on Saturday night could not put a value on the exact investment in the programme up to this point, hinted that the sum would fall in the same region as the $8 million-quoted for titles won over the past few years.
"Getting to this point, it all requires a lot. It is motivating them every single day you are around them. It is getting them to have full conviction and commitment. There is the obvious money that is needed. There is a lot that is needed for a team like this, but most importantly is the loyalty and commitment from everyone, and the belief of the people around the boys in their own abilities," she said.
"I have stopped counting. I broke up the budget in small bits, because to look at it in entirety would overwhelm me," she noted.
"We have different programmes - we have an academic programme, a nutrition programme, hydration, school feeding, and so on; our equipment comes from our sponsor Puma, but each of those programmes has their own budgets and are costly but we have a lot of well wishers, who make valuable contributions," she said.
"The old boy fraternity is also a huge contributor to our efforts, and then there is corporate Jamaica, which also plays a crucial role in helping us," said Hardware, who also shared that members of the team will be fully engaged in a special academic schedule over the coming weeks.
"There will be extra classes for the boys and a homework programme as well," she said. "Now that the season is over, we are going to go into a full academic programme that includes Saturdays and Sundays, to give them back some of the contact hours that they would have lost."
Calabar tallied 287.5 points to outlast rivals Kingston College, 250, and Jamaica College, 227.5.