Sat | Apr 20, 2019

Orville Higgins | Spicing up things for Champs

Published:Saturday | March 3, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Michael Clarke
Jamaica College's Chislon Gordon (second right) awaits the baton exchange from his team-mate before going on to anchor his team to a win in the Class One boys 4x100m relay at the recent Gibson McCook Relays inside the National Stadium on Saturday.

I followed with keen interest the news that Calabar High pulled out of the Gibson McCook Relays last weekend.

The uproar from the fans was expected. The Gibson McCook Relays has long been seen as a good indicator of how teams are shaping up going into the Boys and Girls' Athletic Championships. If the performances at Gibson McCook is strong, then usually, the performance at Champs is strong. Let us not fool ourselves. The subtheme going into "Champs" every year is about Kingston College versus Calabar, and the Gibson McCook Relays is always seen as a precursor to the real clash. That Calabar did not show, denied the fans the opportunity to see the two rival teams going head to head. Naturally, they would be disappointed.

What is the real reason for Calabar's no-show? Why was their pull-out not made public a lot earlier? Depending on who you talked to, the reasons vary. The Calabar community is saying that coach Michael Clarke does not want to overwork his athletes, especially now that the Digicel Grand Prix has been added to the list of meets. The obvious response to this is that this is not the first year of the Grand Prix, and Calabar was at 'Gibsons' last year. So what difference would this year have made between the meets done last year and the meets this year?

Another reason I have heard is that the coach of Calabar was punishing his athletes for not attending a time trial in the latter stages of a camp held some weeks ago. What do we make of this? Even if this is true, why is the Gibson McCook Relays the meet they were asked to miss? What about the reason that this was simply revenge for KC sending an understrength team to the Wint McKenley meet at Calabar? Which brings us to ask the question, why did KC not send a full-strength team to the Calabar meet? If Calabar was really playing tit for tat, can we blame them? There is also another cynical reason I have heard, but that is so potentially damaging to the good name of Calabar that I will not even mention it here.

Unlike many of my colleagues in media, I actually can see the positives here. I am not going to be one of those calling down hell fire and damnation on the Calabar coach for missing the meet. The coach must have full autonomy as to which meet he goes to and which ones he stays away from. I will not go down the road that I have heard some KC people going down, about legal actions, and a change of schedules with the Grand Prix and the Gibson McCook relays, for example. KC people are known to get really irrational on issues affecting their school, and yes, in this fascinating twist to the drama, I have heard a lot of nonsense coming from some who apparently bleed purple.

Michael Clarke is as good as they come, and as old people would say, "him mus' know". What this does is to spice up the drama and atmosphere heading into Champs. Last year, the Ari Rodgers story had us spellbound. It created an additional storyline that made the whole Champs experience even more riveting. If there was anything that could heighten the rivalry between the two Champs giants, then we have it right here. The fact that it is perceived that each school snubbed a meet associated with the other is the perfect way for battle lines to be drawn even more sharply.




Michael Clarke is a wily, old fox, and it will not be lost on him that in pulling his team from the Gibson McCook Relays, he has handed the KC athletes and coaching staff extra motivation to come at Calabar. Maybe that in itself is a motivational tool for his own team. If KC go on to win Champs, then the supporters of the North Street institution will find a way to remind the Calabar coach that it was a mistake to not have gone to 'Gibson.' As someone who has no loyalty either way, I am just excited by this extra narrative that has been thrown in the storyline. In most other sports, the big guns are kept apart for as long as possible. You did not want to see Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin in the same heat. You don't want to see Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal in the quarter finals. Have we accidentally stumbled upon something here? Maybe the two schools should make this standard. Maybe in future we shouldn't have KC and Calabar competing at the same meets at all before Champs if this is at all possible. I am only partly being tongue in cheek here. That would make the Champs experience even more mouthwatering.