Sat | Jun 24, 2017

Fierce Champs battle for boys' and girls' titles

Published:Tuesday | March 24, 2015 | 3:00 AMAndre Lowe
Saqukine Cameron, Edwin Allen's top sprinter
Vere's Renae Medley winning the Girls Under-19 100m at the GC Foster Classics at the National Stadium
Clarke
Edwin Allen's coach Michael Dyke
Calabar's 15-year-old Christopher Taylor... clocked 45.69 over 400 metres at Carifta Trials on March 14
Kingston College's Class Two sprinter Jhevaughn Matherson
Calabar's Class One sprinter/hurdler Michael O'Hara
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"Come and get it if you can!"

That's the challenge from defending boys and girls' champions Calabar and Edwin Allen High schools.

They won't be short of takers, so brace yourselves for what is expected to be one of the most exciting Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA)/

GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships title races in recent history.

Hailed as the greatest event of its kind on the planet, the five-day championships, which gets under way today inside the National Stadium, will form the stage as the island's - and in some cases the world's - best young talent scrap it out for the greatest honour in local high school sports, glory at 'Champs'.

The plot largely remains the same in the boys' section, with defending champions Calabar expected to fight tooth and nail with old foes Kingston College (KC), who are desperate to end a five-year drought and avenge last year's 96.5-point demolition, with Jamaica College (JC) quietly confident of upsetting the applecart.

However, as far as Calabar's head coach, Michael Clarke, is concerned, his team is ready and waiting to celebrate their fourth straight hold on the Mortimer Geddes trophy and 25th title overall.

"We have had some outstanding performances over the past year. Our preparations have gone very well and, as a result, I am looking forward to an exciting and highly competitive championships," Clarke said. "What I know is that Calabar, we have been preparing quite well over the past couple of months, and we are looking forward to some amazing results at Champs.

"A four-peat is a very rare achievement, and that is what we are hoping to achieve," Clarke added.

Besides the 1930-1933 Calabar run, only one other school has managed four or more straight victories at Boys' Champs - KC, which won 14 straight from 1962 to 1975, and five straight from 2002 to 2006.

This year started as one of transition for KC, but hope is at a boiling point at North Street these days, as the purple army look to rise above the disappointments of 2014 and get a hold of a trophy they have not lifted since 2009.

They will have to do it with a coach unfamiliar with the dizzying heights of a Champs title push, and with the availability of one of their biggest names, Nathaniel Bann, still uncertain due to a hamstring injury.

Bann, last year's 400m silver-medal winner, and Class Three double-sprint champion, Jhevaughn Matherson, both recently returned to the island after receiving treatment overseas.

Calm and collected, Harrison is certainly stoking the flame of expectation.

"We have a realistic chance. The team is in good shape and good spirits, and the team that makes the least mistakes will win the championships, and I am hoping that the boys will rise to the occasion," Harrison said.

Defending girls, champions Edwin Allen are threatening to develop a dynasty of their own, as they hunt a second straight title and three in the last four years years.

However, with Hydel High now primed as a serious contender, and St Jago High and Holmwood Technical showing positive signs all season there could be some real Saturday, evening drama this time around.

Try telling that to Edwin Allen's head coach, Michael Dyke.

"I honestly don't think it will be as close as folks are anticipating. I think it will be a lot more challenging in the battle for second and third if you ask me," Dyke dismissed, when contacted by The Gleaner on Sunday.

"Based on our preparations and performances this season, I can say that the girls are pretty much ready to defend their title," Dyke assured.

St Jago finished 74.5 points behind Edwin Allen for second place last year, but coach Keilando Golbourne, who was a student at the school during the Spanish Town-based institution's four-year spell of dominance from 1996-1999, is equally confident that his team will return to the top

"Preparations have gone very well this year. The girls are in high spirits, and they are ready to go," said Golbourne. "I would say we are ready to launch a serious attack on the girls' title. We have our challenges and weak areas, but at Champs everyone starts at zero, so we have to go out there and fight for everything."

No final is scheduled for today, but there will be competition in the preliminaries of the sprint hurdles, 400m and 200m steeplechase.

Competition gets underway at 2 p.m.