Dave Lindo, Gleaner Writer
WOODLANDS PRIMARY School has been making its mark nationally in the area of sports. Over the years, it has been excelling in various sports, which, considering the small size of the school, can be seen as a remarkable achievement.
The school is located in the rural district of Woodlands, a farming community in south Manchester.
For many years, the school has been a nursery for talent in the areas of cricket, netball, lawn tennis, and track and field. Students have moved on from Woodlands to high schools in Manchester, where they excel, and later, as national representatives in their respective sports.
Woodlands has won many parish and national sports competitions. The most recent was winning the 2013 Jamaica National/Sports Development Foundation All-Island Primary School Cricket competition. They defeated New Works Primary of Westmoreland in the finals to win their third national championship following previous wins in 1995 and 2008.
It was an accomplishment which brought joy to the Woodlands community, who, with the lack of opportunities in their neck of the woods, have little to cheer about.
The man who has been at the helm of Woodlands Primary's foray into sports is Leslie Samuels, the sports master and vice-principal of the school. Samuels has so far given 34 years of service to Woodlands. For 29 of those years, he has had responsibility for organising the sports programme at the school and has also served as coach of the cricket team.
"We have produced some talented students over the years. The present All-Island Cricket Champion, Manchester High, is captained by one of our past students, Oshane Walters, who is also the captain of the national under-19 team," Samuels said. "Cross Keys High School's cricket captain, Tristan Coleman, who is also a national under-19 representative, is a past student of the school as well."
Samuels added that Manchester High's top 400 metres athlete, who is also a national representative, started at Woodlands Primary. He said other former students of Woodlands Primary have gone on to schools such as Holmwood Technical and Manchester High and done exceptionally well.
Three all-island titles
Woodlands' netball team has also done very well, winning several zone and parish primary school championships. "We have won three all-island titles in lawn tennis in the under-12 and under-8 categories," Samuels said.
Principal of Woodlands Primary, Earl Anderson, said that the community has a lot to do with the school excelling in sports. "The community has a culture of excellence in sports," Anderson said. "Our community is two-time SDC Twenty20 champions of Jamaica, that is the South Star cricket team."
He added, "The children grow to love sports. The school has been doing well in sports from the days of the former principal, Egbert Walters."
Woodlands Primary has achieved these sporting feats depite having inadequate facilities.
"At present, the netball court is in great need of repairs. The school tries its best to support the various sports programmes, but it would make a great difference if we got some added support," Samuels said.