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ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships returns today after COVID-19 hiatus
After months of anxious waiting, it is all systems go as the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships (Champs) gets under way today at the National Stadium. Champs was cancelled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now...
After months of anxious waiting, it is all systems go as the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships (Champs) gets under way today at the National Stadium.
Champs was cancelled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now coaches and athletes are relieved as there were doubts about the staging of the Championships, for a second year, until government approval was given.
Unlike previous years, the five-day Champs will be void of spectators and truncated as athletes will compete only in one or two rounds in their respective events. There will be only 970 athletes competing (506 males and 464 females), a drop from over 2,500 athletes competing in previous years. Overall, there will be 80 schools competing in 85 events, where 50 per cent of the schools will have less than 10 athletes competing.
Despite the new structure, this should not affect the expected great rivalries expected among the schools as leading up to Champs, there have been great results on the track and in the field from the various teams.
The keen rivalry is set to get into high gear today with 16 finals, 10 among the girls and six among the boys will be contested.
Defending Girls champions Edwin Allen High School, coached by Michael Dyke and from Frankfield, Clarendon, will be seeking to make it seven wins in a row and eight overall, and are expected to get their usual challenge from former champions St Jago High School and Hydel High School. However, with their powerful middle distance and Class Four teams and their strength in the field, especially in the throws, they will start as favourites to mount a successful defence of their title.
A titanic battle is expected on the male side between defending champions Kingston College (KC), who have 32 titles, and rivals Jamaica College (JC) who will be hoping to win their first title in 10 years and their 22nd overall.
JC, coached by Neil Harrison, a former KC head coach, will start as front runners to dethrone KC a with their very strong all-round team, especially in quarter mile and middle distances, where they are expected to dominate in all classes.
“Despite our preparation being affected early by the COVID-19 pandemic, we were ahead of the game as we had a bubble since September, and despite the difficulty in getting the boys motivated at first, things changed in the latter stages,” JC manager Andrew McRae said. “They are looking forward to the Championships as this team is well rounded and talented.
“The advantage in being in a bubble was that we were able to keep the boys in training regularly, unlike in former years, as we were able to maximise the talents of the boys.”
KC head coach Leaford Grant said that his team’s preparation has made him confident of a successful title defence.
“Preparation for us over the past few weeks has gone well and the boys are ready to give of their best and, as usual, we expect to see the same true fighting spirit of Kingston College,” he said.
It has not been one of the greatest build-ups to Champs for 28-time champions Calabar High School but head coach Michael Clarke, who has coached three different schools to titles at Champs, expects his team to fight to the end.
“Our preparations have not been the same due to the pandemic and I expect an intense Championships for points,” he said. “Like any of the other top teams, we do have a chance at the end to win the title.”
There will be 16 finals to be decided today, with 10 among the girls and six among the boys. Following the various qualifying and regional meets leading up to the Championships, Edwin Allen and Jamaica College will start as favourites to walk away with top honours when Champs 2021 comes to an end on Saturday night.
1. Edwin Allen High School 384
2. St Jago High School 338
3. Hydel High School 313
4. Vere Technical High School 140
5. Holmwood Technical High School 120
1. Jamaica College 371
2. Kingston College 330
3. Calabar High School 240
4. St Elizabeth Technical High School 157
5. St Jago High School 113