Sun | Oct 1, 2023

St George’s College back on the radar

Published:Tuesday | March 14, 2023 | 1:21 AMHubert Lawrence/Gleaner Writer

ST GEORGE’S College scored 14 points at the 2022 Corporate Area Championships. However, steady work boosted that score to 79.5 and fifth place at the 2023 staging inside the National Stadium.

The Corporate Area results are a boon to head coach Gavin James, known widely as a massage therapist and jumps expert. The man, who made Shantae Foreman a high jump prospect to watch at Excelsior High School, started his coaching career at Jamaica College. He first thought of coaching boys again when he saw St George’s had student-athletes competing in the jumps some years ago.

James eventually reached the 1914 and 1925 Boys’ Championships winning school with a mission to help.

“I see young men at George’s who live around the community in the ghetto and scholarships are giving away and I believe that these guys are supposed to get some of those scholarships,” James said.

Amari Officer, the long jumper who was the school’s lone scorer at the 2021 staging of Boys and Girls’ Championships, kept the fire burning.

“When I came here, it wasn’t a lot of boys. It was about maybe 11 but they were working. Got one who was really determined because, over the COVID [period], he was the one that was always sending communication to me, what he did, whatever, and that same year, we went to Champs and got silver in the long jump. That’s Officer,” he recounted.

His other inspiration came from his Excelsior track coach Desmond Pryce.

“He gave his all to help us although he was a soldier and had other things to do. He had his kids and stuff, he made sure, he pushed us and told us you guys can get scholarships, you guys can become men in the future,” James said.

The work of a coaching team that includes accomplished hurdles instructor Kevin Pryce and international triple jumper, Wilbert Walker, has ignited growth in the team.

Forty-five boys came to training when the 2022-2023 school year began.

“After a while, they saw that track and field is not an easy sport, and that’s what we wanted to get to the youngsters to say that, guess what, this is a sport you have to train for, you have to be disciplined,” said James.

Now there are 30 Georgians left training for Champs. Among them is Officer, who scored all of the school’s seven points in 2021, with his second-place finish in the Class Two long jump.

“The other day I checked, and it was 16 to 18 of them who are in the rankings already to get into Champs and I’m like, this is a start, this is a start to greatness.”

Rashan Dunn and Nathaen Bryan, second and third in the Class Four 100, and Jahzi Walters, third in the Class Three 100 hurdles, shone brightest for the Georgians at the Corporate Area meet. In addition to the medals, James’ squad produced eight fourth-place finishes.