Thu | Sep 29, 2016

Fierce battle for Champs

Published:Wednesday | March 24, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Holmwood's Chris Ann Gordon
Kemoy Campbell of Bellefield High
Manchester High's Natoya Goule
Jazeel Murphy
Calabar High's Traves Smikle.
St Hugh's High School's Candecia Bernard
Edwin Allen's Ristananna Tracey
Edwin Allen's Nikita Tracey
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Elton Tucker, Assistant Editor - Sport

The island's top junior athletes will be on show today and over the next four days at the National Stadium for the centenary celebrations of the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Championships.

Dubbed Champs 100, the meet has attracted just under 3,000 athletes comprising 113 boys' and 109 girls' teams.

Competition over the four days is expected to be fierce. Defending boys' champions Kingston College (KC), the winningest school in the history of the championships, will have to dig deep to beat back challenges from arch rivals Calabar High, Wolmer's Boys - the first champions in 1910 - and Jamaica College (JC), the dominant school in inter-secondary athletics until KC, the famed 'purples' from North Street, reeled off 14 consecutive victories from 1962-1975. KC will be seeking their 32nd lien on the championship trophy, while Calabar are eyeing their 22nd.

The battle for the girls' crown will again be between the mid-island schools which took the top two spots last year, Holmwood Technical, who are seeking their eighth title in a row and Edwin Allen High, still hunting their first.

Yesterday the coaches of both girls' schools were very upbeat ahead of four days of hectic organisation.

Holmwood's Maurice Wilson was confident that his girls would remain champions come Saturday night.

"It may not be a pretty performance but we are going to win. Once we start out on a good footing we should be okay. I am expecting the team to get better as the meet progresses," Wilson said.

The Holmwood coach, who said he was away from the team for a 'couple of weeks', admitted that there was some panic at his school after a below par performance at the recent Central Championships, which saw Edwin Allen topping the girls' section, but that was now behind them.

"... I am not too sure what the panic was about. I personally believe the only way we can be defeated (at Champs) is if our athletes do not perform according to the standard that we expect them to perform," Wilson added.

Victory

To achieve victory, Wilson will be looking to his Class One and Class Three girls. In Class Three he can call on the outstanding Chris-Ann Gordon, who won the 400-800m double in the class last year. She clocked 52.68 seconds for the 400m and could challenge the record 52.52 set by another Holmwood athlete, Anneisha McLaughlin, in 2001.

Edwin Allen finished on 203 points, 196.5 behind Holmwood's tally of 400.5 last year. It is a steep mountain to climb but coach Michael Dyke thinks his team is more rounded this year.

"We still have the Tracey sisters (Nikita and Ristananna), who should do very well and we have gone into more events than we entered last year. We also have stronger competitors in most of the other events," Dyke said yesterday.

Dyke expects to get most of his points in Class One and to do well all-round in the hurdles events.

According to him, the favourites' tag which many Champs watchers have
pinned on his team, will not exert any extra
pressure.

"We are going out there to perform as best
as we can," he said.

While Holmwood were runaway
girls' champions, the supporters of the top two boys' teams endured a
very tense final evening last year. The lead changed on several
occasions before KC edged their rivals by just 1.5 points, 223.5 to 222.
It could again be anybody's race.

KC's head coach,
Michael Russell, echoed those sentiments at the weekend, while saying
that his boys were ready and raring to go.

"I see it
being just as close as last year. ... Every team has lost a certain
number of athletes who would have garnered some amount of points and
based on the points spread we see it just about even," Russell
said.

The KC coach expects strong performances in all
three classes. KC have been strong in field events in recent years, but
Russell predicts that things will change at this year's
meet.

"More people are focussing on the field events
and points will be shared among a number of schools," Russell told
The Gleaner.

Calabar's head coach,
Michael Clarke, honoured by the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports
Association (ISSA) earlier this year as one of the outstanding Champs
coaches, also expects a close meet.

"The winning
margin might be even half-a-point," Clarke
said.

According to Clarke, there are some injury
concerns but the school is managing them fairly
well.

Calabar's coach expects his field event athletes
to perform very well.

"Field events are where our
thrust for championships is this year. We have decent throwers, jumpers
and pole vaulters, so it should be pretty interesting," he
concluded.

Championship
honours

While the top schools are chasing championship
honours, a number of athletes from other schools are expected to
perform very well. Bellefield High's Kemoy Campbell will be chasing
records in the middle distances, so too Natoya Goule from Manchester
High.

St Hugh's Candecia Bernard will also be trying
to better her national junior record in the Class One girls' discus and
to repeat her Carifta Trials shot put, discus
double.

Three finals, girls' triple jump open and
discus Class One and boys' Class One long jump, are down to be contested
today.

Bernard is a cinch for the discus while
Wolmer's Kamal Fuller is the hot favourite for the boys' Class One long
jump gold. St Elizabeth Technical's Rochelle Farquharson is the odds on
favourite for the girls' triple jump open.