Early-season showdown - Top schools set to clash on JC's new track
The 2019 track and field season is expected to start with a big bang on Saturday.
Several of the top high-school track and field teams will be sending large teams to the new Ashenheim Stadium at Jamaica College for the 26th staging of the Purewater JC/Danny Williams Invitational meet.
It's the first meet on the 2019 Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) calendar and for the first time, athletes will be competing on an all-weather 4000-metre track at JC.
Meet director Ian Forbes told The Gleaner on yesterday's closing date for entries that 60 teams, including the national high-school boys' and girls' champions, Calabar and Edwin Allen, respectively, are among the entrants.
"We are expecting a high-quality meet. There are more athletes than last year, and there is great anticipation by all to compete in this new world-class facility," said Forbes, who is also first-vice-president of the JAAA.
As many as 80 athletes from Calabar are expected to compete at the meet. However, while the Red Hills Road-based school will make their usual strong showing, a lot of focus will be on the host school Jamaica College (JC) and Kingston College (KC). Both schools have had coaching changes coming into the new season.
Neil Harrison has moved to JC after four years at KC and will be hoping to put on a grand display. Lead coach at KC Leaford Grant is downplaying the expected clash with their former coach.
"KC will be taking a different approach this season. It will be a slow and progressive one for us as the guys are just coming off a Christmas break, and we will not be pushing them so early in trying to seize any psychological advantage over any team," said Grant, who indicated that winning last year's Manning Cup football competition has lifted the level of confidence at KC and that this will be reflected in the track and field season.
Girls' champions Edwin Allen have also entered over 80 athletes at the meet, and head coach Michael Dyke will be firing some 'warning shots'.
"We did not have a very good preparation as we did not compete on the road and in development meets in December, but the holiday camp was an excellent one, and come Saturday, we expect great performances all round. The platform for another successful season will be set on Saturday," said an upbeat Dyke.
It's being whispered in some circles that former girls' champions Holmwood Technical will unseat Edwin Allen this year, and they have also entered a big team.
Coach Dave Anderson said that Holmwood will show on Saturday that they are ready to take back the title they last won in 2013.
"We have had a great preseason, and we are strong in all classes," Anderson said.
"Preparation between September to December was excellent, and it will be shown on Saturday and in the days leading up to Champs," he added.
All throwing events for Saturday's meet will be held at the UWI-Usain Bolt Stadium in Mona, and the athletes will be shuttled by bus to that venue.
As usual, an outstanding individual who over the years has contributed to the meet will be recognised, and this year's honouree is statistician Trevor McCain. Trophies will also be awarded to top athletes at the meet.