Champs Watch | Relay dress rehearsal today
A glimpse at the relay section of the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Championships record books shows some of the reason for the current dominance of Calabar High School and Edwin Allen Comprehensive High School. Of the 11 records there listed, the champion schools have four each. It's testimony to the importance placed on relay running by their respective head coaches Michael Clarke of Calabar and Michael Dyke of Edwin Allen.
Today's Gibson McCook Relays are an important last dress rehearsal for Champs, when 12 points are the reward for a relay victory. With all due respect to the other meets that include relays, nothing simulates the crowd interaction and the pressure of Champs quite like the Gibson McCook Relays.
As Champs approaches, Calabar's sprinters will probably have gotten used to Clarke taking over the last two weeks of baton-passing practise from his assistant coaches. The points are just too precious.
Recently, however, Calabar's fortunes have fluctuated in the relays at Champs. In 2014, the green-and-blacks scored a 50 point relay bonanza. Two years earlier, they managed only 26, and in 2015, just 28.
If a boys' team wins all the relays, it collects 60 points.
The corresponding maximum number for the six girls' relays is 72. Edwin Allen took 53 relay points in 2012, when they first won the Girls Champs title, 49 when it regained the crown from Holmwood in 2014, and 52 in 2015.
The Edwin Allen relay point collection last year was a paltry 41.
HIGHER STAKES LATER
Today, the spoils will be bragging rights, practise for Champs, and perhaps a chance for Gibson McCook records. When Boys and Girls' Champs starts on March 28, the stakes will be much higher.
Calabar hold all the Champs 4x100m records and the 4x400m record, too. Edwin Allen have all the girls' 4x100m records, except in Class Three, and the record in the sprint medley. It's another statement of how well Clarke and Dyke prepare their teams.
Some of those marks are stunning. Calabar's 2015 Class One team of Edward Clarke Jr, Michael O'Hara, Julanie Walker and Sean Selvin set a world high-school best of 39.08 seconds. In the very next race, Edwin Allen became the first Class Two girls team to dip under 45 seconds, with a sweet run of 44.88 seconds.
O'Hara and company are all gone, but that blinking quick Edwin Allen is in Class One now and will be in action today. They have already clocked 44.89 this season. If the weather is warm and if Kashieka Cameron, Patrice Moody, Shellece Clark and Khamoy Farquharson click, the Gibson McCook meet record of 44.48 seconds by St Jago could fall.
Whatever happens today, Clarke, Dyke and their fellow coaches will study how their teams performed with Champs in mind. Some will leave a winning formula intact for April 1 when the Champs relay finals are contested. Others will tweak their line-ups a little to score the points they need on the day that counts the most.
- Hubert Lawrence has attended Champs since 1980.