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Reflections on Boys' Champs (1932-1954) Part 2

Published:Sunday | March 14, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Most Jamaicans know of Arthur Wint's heroics in winning medals and setting records at the Olympic Games but his alma mater, Calabar High, was the training ground which prepared him for success. - File photo

Arnold Bertram, Contributor

This period covers the first 22 years of Champs as a two-day meet, during which the number of participating schools increased from 10 in 1931 to 13 in 1954. The democratisation of inter-school athletics was indeed a slow process.

In 1930, Jamaican athletes had for the first time competed overseas when a team led by G.C. Foster, as coach, went to Havana to compete in the Central American Games. The best schoolboy performers could now look forward to taking their athletic careers a step further by competing internationally.

Organised athletics in Jamaica advanced in 1941 with the staging of the inaugural Inter-schools Girls' Championships, in which Montego Bay High emerged winners ahead of St Andrew High, Immaculate Conception, Alpha Academy, The Technical School and Manchester School. Unfortunately, the meet was abandoned after three years, and when it was reinstated in 1957, it was again abandoned the following year, and not restored as an annual event until 1961.

It was in this period that school rivalries really intensified, and old boys became just as passionate as those present, in the belief that winning was the only satisfactory reward for effort. Headmasters found it increasingly difficult to contain the adulation and self-importance that the outstanding athletes in their schools derived from winning at Champs.

Those cheering in the stands were as keen as those competing on the track. Some schools shouted their cheers in Latin, a subject which was very much part of curricula. Educators of the day clearly shared the view that "the rigorous discipline provided by the effort to master Latin grammar contributes to the making of an educated mind".

Calabar's golden run and the emergence of Arthur Wint

Calabar's golden run, 1930-1934, reached a high point in 1932. That year, the school's Class Three champion, Arthur Wint, made his first appearance at Champs and won both the 100 and 220 yards. He had not yet celebrated his 12th birthday.

Born at Plowden in the hills of Manchester, Wint benefited from an early but unconscious physical conditioning, walking miles daily up and down the steep terrain. When the family moved to Galina, St Mary, he often walked four miles to school, and when he was not walking or running he was swimming at the nearby beach. He was still a schoolboy in 1938 when he gained Jamaica's first gold medal at the CAC Games in Panama; and a decade later he was the toast of the British Empire when he mined Jamaica's first Olympic gold medal.

In Class One, however, the Calabar athletes were overshadowed by C.C. Searchwell of Titchfield, who recorded the first two gold medals for his school at Champs by winning the cricket ball throw and the 880 yards, and breaking the record in both events for good measure.

In 1934, Calabar's headmaster, convinced that four consecutive victories were enough for any one school, offered to share G.C.'s coaching expertise with other schools. To the consternation of the team, he also asked Arthur Wint, who was eligible to run for a third year in Class Three, to sit out the year and allow another boy to win. That year, Calabar dropped to fifth place.

However, by winning again in 1936, the school confirmed its dominance of Champs in the '30s. That year, H. McD Messam, the Calabar captain, shared the spotlight with R.B. Martin (Wolmer's) and Douglas Hall (Jamaica College - JC), who won the 100, 220 and 440 yards in Class One and Class Two, respectively.

G.C. Foster carries KC to first lien

In 1937, Kingston College (KC) entered Champs for the eighth time. In 1931, they came third. Then in 1935, they not only secured another third place, but achieved a landmark when C.P. Harvey became their first Class One champion by winning the long jump, taking second place in the 220 yards and winning the open 120 yards hurdles. Finally, in 1937, G.C. Foster coached the team to victory. KC's most outstanding performer was H.I. Brown, who dominated the Class Two track events.

The stellar performance, however, came from Pat McGlashan Sr who, under GC's guidance, established a new record of 6'1.25" in the Class One high jump. With that leap he joined E.C. Marsh (1921) and H.W. Myers (1926) as the third schoolboy to achieve world-class status in the high jump. McGlashan was the first schoolboy to use the 'western roll' at Champs. G.C. had already coached Joe McKenzie, the winner of the event at Boys' Champs in 1928, in the use of the technique as he prepared him to compete in the 1930 Central American Games held in Cuba, at which he won a silver medal.

After carrying KC to victory in 1937, G.C. moved on to Jamaica College, and in 1940 maintained his record of success when the JC team, with A.C. Ellington and S.W. James, won the cup.

Herb McKenley and Leroy 'Coco' Brown

In 1938, when Wolmer's won the Cup, their outstanding athlete was N.B. Smythe, who won the Class One 100, 220 and 440 yards to share the spotlight with C.R. Marsh (KC), the overall champion in Class One. Hardly anyone noticed Leroy 'Coco' Brown, who won the Class Two high jump. In 1939, when Wolmer's retained the championship, he was even less conspicuous.

That year, the Dujon brothers dominated the high jump, Sydney Foster lowered the hurdles record from 16.6 seconds to 15.9 and A.A. Jackson (STGC) turned the tables on Smythe in the Class One track events. However, over the next two years 'Coco' Brown would become the toast of Wolmer's and one of the all-time personalities of Boys' Champs.

Another unheralded event in 1938 was the entry of Herbert Henry McKenley. Herb, like N.W. Manley, R.A. Burke and H.A. McMorris, grew up on a farm, and like them, had the benefit of an unconscious early physical conditioning. In addition, he ran all his errands and his grandfather raced him against all visitors to their home. So rigorous was his conditioning that in his first week at Calabar, when he was told that he should turn out to be taught how to run, he smiled and politely replied, "I can do that already, sir."

In his first year at Champs, his only race was the Class Two 220 yards, in which he came second to his schoolmate, L.B. Jones, giving little or no indication of the greatness he would achieve in international track and field within a decade. The following year, his first year in Class One, he was second to Jackson (STGC) in the 220 and to N.B. Smythe in the 440 yards.

Between 1940 and 1941, the duel between Herb McKenley and 'Coco' Brown dominated Champs. When they met for the first time in 1940, McKenley came second in the 100 and 220 yards. His only victory was in the 440 yards, in which he lowered the record to 51.8, only to have it disallowed when the track was measured short. In 1941, they resumed the rivalry, and this time Douglas Manley (Munro) beat both of them as he equalled his father's record of 10.0 seconds set in 1911. Then Brown got the better of Herb in the 440 yards in a slow time of 53.2.

While the attention was focused on the track, Brown's most spectacular feat was in the long jump, where he broke the record with a leap of 23'2", just above the 7m which the eighth-place finalist jumped in the 1948 Olympics. Herb left Champs just as hungry for success as when he started, and this perhaps explains why he became the first Jamaican to hold a world record. He established another landmark in 1943 when he became the first recipient of a track scholarship to the United States and, by so doing, opened the door for outstanding Jamaican athletes to access tertiary education.

W.K.B. Dunleavy's Munro - school of the '40s

After winning Champs in 1934 with a complete sweep of Class Three by W.L. Garcia and A.M. Swaby, Munro was again victorious in 1935, as A.M. Swaby won the 100, 220, 440 yards and long jump in Class Two. The school then went into a period of decline. In the five stagings of Champs between 1936 and 1940, Munro gained a total of 20 points. The climb back up began in 1941 when the school came second and Douglas Manley equalled his father's 100 yards record. They retained second place in 1942.

Then came 1943, when for the first time since 1926 Munro took home the cup. Champs was not held in 1944 but Munro won again in 1945, thanks to two outstanding performances by Lindy Delapenha  in Class One and M.V. Turner in Class Two. In 1946, Calabar interrupted their winning streak when Horace Russell won the cup for Calabar by one point in the last event of the day.

Munro were back to their winning ways in 1947, when H.D. Ferguson scored 14 points in Class Two, and again in 1948, with V.R. Lumsden, R.D. Cooper and E.A. Jones achieving a complete sweep of the open events. With these five wins, Munro established their dominance of the 1940s and Dunleavy confirmed his status as second only to G.C. Foster as a coach.

Louis 'Pinhead' Gooden and the all-conquering Wolmer's

The Wolmer's team of 1949 certainly ranks as one of the greatest to compete at Champs. The team scored points in 18 of the 20 events and recorded 12 wins, four second placings and four thirds. It was the first time that a school scored more than 50 points, and it was a fitting reward for O.G. Brown, who had been sportsmaster at the school since 1914, and a moment of satisfaction for the headmaster, J.R. Bunting, who was then president of the Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association. The team coach was Ted Lamont, who would figure prominently in the development of Jamaican athletics.

The star performer was Louis Gooden, who ranks with Norman Manley and Rudolph Burke in the list of all-time Champs greats. In four years he ran 10 races at Champs, losing only one. He was champion athlete in Class One and Class Two and lowered the records for the 220 and 440 yards in both classes. To this day, track fans still speak of the perfection of Gooden's style, fluency and high knee lift.

K.V. Donaldson lifts Cornwall out of doldrums

While Munro was making its presence felt at Champs, arch-rivals in DaCosta Cup football, Cornwall College, were hardly in the picture. They started brilliantly with star athlete L.W. Foote dominating Class One sprints in 1924 and 1925. He was followed by N. Sinclair and S. Martin, who carried Cornwall's colours on the track between 1928 and 1931. Then an unbelievable 'drought' followed, as over the next 17 years Cornwall did not send a team for four years and failed to score a single point on eight occasions.

It was against this background that K.V. Donaldson's consecutive victories in the 880 yards and the mile (1951-1952) lifted Cornwall out of the doldrums and gave Montego Bay something to cheer about.

Louis Knight leads sprinting revolution

In 1953, Louis Upton Knight (StGC) did the impossible. That year, after running unplaced in the sprints for years at Champs, he defeated Frank Hall, the record holder and GC's current protégé in both the 100 and 220 yards, equalling the record in the former and breaking the record in the latter. His coach, Ted Lamont, created another major upset that year when another relative newcomer, Richard Estick (StGC), won the 440 yards.

Despite his phenomenal feats as a sprinter, it was as a hurdler that Louis Knight recorded his most outstanding performance at Champs. Since Norman Manley's 14.6 over the 3'3" hurdles in 1912, it was not until Sydney Foster (Wolmer's) ran 15.5 over the 3'6" hurdles (1940) that this event showed any progress. After losing to Keith Young (KC) in Class Two, Knight, coached by Father Joseph Countie, won for three consecutive years in Class One and finished with a record-breaking 14.9 in 1953, 0.1 second behind the sixth-place finalist in the 1952 Olympics. In that hurdles finals, Young and Howard Aris placed second and third to Knight, and in Class Two Leroy Keane (Calabar) broke the record. Waiting in the wings were two young Wolmerians, E. Chung and V. Tatem. A new generation of hurdlers had emerged.

'Foggy' Burrowes unleashes 'Purple Power'

In 1949, S.I. 'Foggy' Burrowes returned to his alma mater, KC, as sportsmaster. He had been the captain of the track team in 1947 when G.C. Foster shocked the athletics community by coaching the previously unplaced Ruddy Richardson to win the Class One 100 yards. 'Foggy' was certainly watching closely in 1948 as Teddy Hewitt, under G.C.'s guidance, won all three track events in Class Two and set records in the 100 and 220 yards. The new sportsmaster would have been even more impressed when G.C. transformed Benson Forde, "a clumsy, raw 17-year-old", to the stylish sprinter who defeated the defending champion, Vin Lumsden (Munro), in the 880 yards and the mile.

'Foggy' was a motivator par excellence with a fierce determination to win. As a devotee of G.C., he had acquired all that the great man could impart. His self-imposed mission was to unleash 'Purple Power' on Champs. In 1950, Burrowes registered his first win. K.C. took home the cup again in 1951, the year when Teddy Hewitt swept all before him in Class One and Carl Belnavis did the same in Class Two. In 1952, he was up against his mentor G.C. Foster at JC and came out second best, despite Howard Aris' 14 points in Class Two. He stormed back with consecutive wins in 1953 and 1954. In those two years, Keith Young (Class One) and Keith Graham (Class Two) were the outstanding performers.

G.C. Foster and the JC sprint factory

While 'Foggy' Burrowes and KC dominated Champs (1950-1954), they were never able to get the better of G.C.'s sprint factory at JC. In 1950, G.C. paraded his first sprint creation, R.A. Mahfood, who defeated both Roy Taylor (STGC) and Teddy Hewitt (KC) in the 100 yards, and the JC team won the 4x110 relay. The following year, D. Davidson succeeded Mahfood as JC's top sprinter and was second in both the 100 and 220 yards to Teddy Hewitt (KC), another G.C. protégé. The JC sprint factory bounced back in the Class One sprint relay to win in a record time of 44.9.

The year 1952 will always be remembered as one of the high points of G.C.'s career, when Frank Hall sped away from the opposition in the 100 yards to break the Class One record established by Norman Manley in 1911 with a 9.9 clocking. The JC team then broke the Class One relay record, and in the final event of the day, Frank Hall and Barclay Ewart ran first and second in the 220 yards to give JC the cup as pandemonium reigned.

In 1953, even G.C. Foster and Frank Hall had to settle for second place behind Louis Knight (STGC). In the Class One sprint relay, G.C. and JC again found the winning formula. Finally, in 1954, G.C.'s last year at JC, Barclay Ewart joined a select band of elite sprinters by winning the 100, 220, 440 yards and anchoring the victorious sprint relay team.

Arnold Bertram is the author of the forthcoming publication, 'Jamaica on the Track - The Making of a Superpower in Track and Field Athletics'. Comments may be sent to or