Sat | Aug 24, 2019

Once upon a time in the west - Former western stars Herbert Morrison shift focus from athletics

Published:Saturday | March 24, 2018 | 12:00 AMKavarly Arnold
Former Herbert Morrison standout Dexter Lee.

Ten years ago, Herbert Morrison Technical High School's track and field programme was the darling of the western region, producing the likes of Dexter Lee, who is one of few boys to have won the 100m in all three classes at Champs, along with the likes of Antonique Campbell, Everton Clarke, Romona Burchell and Tovea Jenkins athletes, who have all gone on to represent Jamaica at the senior level.

But Claude Grant, the coach, who harnessed their talents, believes it might be some time before the Montego Bay-based institution produces athletes of that calibre as the school's administration has shifted its focus from developing athletic talent to concentrating on its students' academic growth.

"The school itself, the admin, has shifted focus from getting students with talent and it is very difficult to produce those kinds of athletes, when you don't get the same type of talent," said Grant, who guided Lee to two World Under 20 Championships 100m titles.

"The effort that we normal used to get the athlete is just not there. They have to come there, at the school, like any other students and we work with them."

Grant said he supports the administration's stance somewhat, as he has seen an increase in the number of students from the school who are matriculating to tertiary institutions.

"We have seen a lot of students going to universities and we even see students, who come to the school, who are not so bright doing well too, but from my perspective as a coach, I need talent to work with," Grant said.

In 2006, Herbert Morrison finished just outside of the top five in the points standing on the boys' side. A year later, the girls finished seventh. Last year , they finished 21st in the boys' category and 23rd on the girls' side. Grant said that financial constraints also played a part in the school's decision.

"It takes a lot of money to take the athletes to Kingston to track meets, and it was taking a toll on the school," Grant said. "We get some help from our past students but not as much as we need to run the programme."

His Class Three boys 4x100m team has qualified for today's final and Antonio Hanson, the Class Two high jumper could produce a gold medal.

"I don't really count points. I just take athletes, who we believe can make the final," Grant said.