Portland 'ready' for JTA/Sagicor title defence
KINGSTON:With just a few days leading up to the 29th staging of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA)/Sagicor Primary, All-Age and Junior High School Athletics Championships slated for the National Stadium on May 18 and 19, about all 14 participating parishes have expressed that there is new talent.
Defending champions Portland, led by coach Herman Reid, believe their young charges can help them retain their title, even while he noted that the task will be difficult with St Andrew, St Catherine and St Elizabeth all competing for the top spots.
"Our athletes are ready and raring to go and we believe we can garner back-to-back wins," said Reid.
He said they have improved their sprint department and should put in a good showing against St Catherine, whose athletes have dominated that discipline for the past few seasons.
Portland's bid will be led by returning sprinter Shanelle Hibbert and Class One twin sensation, Romario and Amario Fearon, who were part of the gold medal-winning relay team last year, along with returning favourites - Mackaela Frazer, last year's national Under-11 champion and Joline Fable, a Class Two entrant. They are expected to bring home gold again.
The coach is also convinced they will win the 4x100m Under-17 boys' event and break the girls' long jump record.
Joanna Atkinson, Latoya Ewart and Ricardo Barrett number among the less experienced athletes for Portland, which narrowly missed out on back-to-back championships in 2007 and 2008 - actually suffering a one-point loss to Kingston the latter year.
They also have up-and-coming Britney Brown and Keron Olgate (Class Five - Under Nine), as well as Vanessa Dixon (Class Two - Under 15), whom Reid believes will add strength to their challenge.
Reid, though, says the real strength of his team will once again lie in the middle distance and 400m events.
Portland's primary ordeal heading into this year's championships has been their lack of preparation, which has been severely affected by the inclement weather.
"We had to cancel a training camp that we had because rain has been falling nearly every day here in Portland, but nevertheless we are confident that the work we had got in will suffice come the championships," said Reid.