André Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter
They started Saturday's final day of the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Championships in third place, but as assistant coach Omar Hawes revealed, Calabar's 23rd hold on the Mortimer Geddes trophy was the work of determination and a gripping team meeting.
Hawes, himself a product of head coach Michael Clark, bore witness to a rallying cry on the eve of the 'Champs' finale from the coaches and senior team members, fuel that drove the Red Hills Road team to a commanding Saturday afternoon as Calabar outdid even their own expectations.
"It went very well for us I spoke to you last week and told you that it would be close, but it turned out even better for us than we planned in terms of the points that we scored, but I think God was on our side. We managed well, and this was just our year," said Hawes amid jubilant Calabar athletes and support staff shortly after confirming their victory over rivals Jamaica College (JC) and Kingston College (KC).
In the end, on the back of their usual field events dominance, middle-distance fortitude, and a number of eye-opening displays in the sprints and relays, Calabar racked up 299 points with JC (258.5), KC (247.5), Wolmer's (121), St Jago (107), and Munro (98), rounding off the top six teams at one of the most exciting Champs in its 103-year history, with 30 records falling victim.
However, it wasn't always looking overly bright for the Calabar team, which started the championships without their inspirational captain Demar 'Squiddy' Robinson. Also, despite securing key qualifications to finals, Calabar could not shake JC and KC going into Saturday's all-action final day, sitting in five points behind the Old Hope Road-based JC on Friday night.
That was when Clarke, Hawes, and the other coaches went to work, sounding the battle cry and rallying their troops for one final stand in defence of their title.
"The turning point was last night. We had a team meeting before we went to bed. We spoke to the guys and told them that we were in all the finals that we needed to be in and were basically trailing by small numbers. We knew we could come out today once we executed and managed well in terms of how the boys recovered, and that was what we did," Hawes said.
"Hats off to the entire management team, our coaching staff, along with the Calabar fraternity. It's a good victory. I told you I expected it, but it's now reality, and we are extremely happy for it, and we thank God," he added before speaking to Robinson, who, despite being the one to lift the trophy for the last time in his Champs career, was barred by ISSA from competing for matriculation reason.
"Honestly, it's a great victory for him! I just spoke to him; he is in tears. He is a very emotional young man, very strong, though. What God has put out there no man can stop it," said Hawes, who also reserved praise for Clarke.
"He is the physician behind the chemistry of what you see here tonight. He is the one that molded all of us as assistant coaches into what we are today, and I must give great thanks to him," Hawes added.
The school will stage its customary celebrations among students and faculty this morning.