Gold medal winner Kelly-Ann Beckford the toast
When 14-year-old Kelly-Ann Beckford of Albert Town High School in Trelawny fell during the Girls Class Three 1,500m final at the recent 2015 ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships at the National Stadium in Kingston, she quickly got up, brushed herself off, rejoined the race and then went on to claim the gold medal - the school's first-ever female gold medal winner at Champs.
Beckford's gold medal has put her in illustrious company as she now joins Omar Brown, who emerged the sprint king at Champs 2000 after winning the 100m title, as the only athletes from Albert Town High School to have won gold medals at the annual track and field showpiece.
In terms of the parish, from a female perspective, she has joined the ever-growing list of top-flight female athletes from southern Trelawny, who have dazzled at Champs. The list includes sisters Inez and Yvette Turner and the great Olympian, Veronica Campbell-Brown, who is married to Omar Brown.
As a mark of gratitude for the successes of young Beckford and the other athletes who represented the school with distinction at Champs, the Albert Town High School family held a banquet last Thursday to honour the athletes and their coaches, Perhona Tomlin Iru Linton and Miguel Clark.
An elated chairman of the school's board of governor, Hugh Dixon, said the school will be using the exploits of Beckford as the catalyst to build a solid athletics programme and, as a consequence, they will be doing everything possible to ensure that she completes her high school education at the school.
"There are reports that she is being scouted by other schools, but we intend to keep her right here," said Dixon, intimating that the school is seeking to assist her with her schooling expenses. "We have a lot of talent here and we are planning to build on our talent base, which includes young Beckford and the other members of the team."
At the function, which featured cultural items and motivational talks from school officials, including the institution's principal, the netball teams, their coaches and Sheldon Thomas, the head of the physical education department, were also honoured.
In reflecting on the face that brought her such glory at Champs, the soft-spoken Beckford, who resides in the Litchfield district, also in southern Trelawny, said the race, in which she clocked 4:45.35, was a pleasing experience.
"It was difficult falling in the race, but I knew I had to defeat the runners from Edwin Allen High and the other big name schools," beamed Beckford. "After getting past the finish line first, it was a great feeling, as history was created for Albert Town High."
Coach Clarke was full of praise for Beckford, telling Western Focus that she will become a major star in the future as she is already positioning herself to go after the long-standing Class Two Champs record, which is currently held by Inez Turner.
"She has the potential to really go for the record next year; she is very smart," said Clarke, noting that the talented young athlete is also doing well academically. "She believes the sky is the limit for her."