Hold your breath

Favourites Calabar, KC confident of usurping the other

Senior staff reporter

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

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The 109th staging of the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) Boys' and Girls' Athletics Championship starts today inside the National Stadium with defending champions Calabar High and Edwin Allen High girls favoured to retain the Mortimer Geddes trophies.

A record 221 schools will be participating over the five days of intense competition, making it one of the greatest high school events in the world with action set to begin at 1:00 pm and concludes at 9:00 pm on Saturday night with the usual spectacular closing ceremony.

Calabar will be hunting their eighth-straight win and their 29th overall, while fierce rivals Kingston College (KC) – the most successful school with 31 titles — will be seeking to end a 10-year drought, having last won in 2009. Jamaica College (JC), with 21 wins, are also in the hunt and will certainly make their presence felt.

Calabar won by just over 90 points last year and coach Omar Hawes believes the boys are ready despite playing second fiddle to KC in both the Corporate Area Champs and the Digicel Grand Prix final and the recent distraction of the alleged teacher assault case which implicated two of the school's stars, Christopher Taylor and Dejour Russell.

“We are fully ready to defend our title. The camp is in high gear again after the distraction that caused some emotional energy that was not so good for the camp,” Hawes told the Jamaica Observer after his team left a church service on Sunday.

“But we have refocused the team and arranged a few sessions of counselling and stuff and the two members that were being attacked in my humble assessment. They held their grounds as captain and vice-captain and pulled the team back together,” he noted.

“KC has been putting in some awesome performances all season and give credit to them. I think they are learning or they are embarking on new ways to get the team ready and it's a good look for Kingston College without a doubt,” Hawes pointed out.

“JC also are showing some promise and the champions can come from any of the top three, but I can only speak for Calabar and so far our programme has peaked at the right time with basically what we wanted to do and it is left to be seen over the five days,” he explained.

On the argument that Calabar's strength is mainly in the Class One, Hawes responded: “I can assure you that we have a fully rounded team and we are confident that classes two and three should deliver once there are no mishaps,” said Hawes.

His KC counterpart, Leford Grant, who in his first season as head coach, is quietly confident that the “Famed Purples” can pull it off and win their first title since 2009.

“We are ready. The boys are excited and in a good mood, and once the boys give of their best, then I foresee we winning the championship,” said Grant, after attending a church service with the team on Sunday.

“We are very confident, but I don't like to talk about the past. We like to talk about what is ahead of us and we have prepared the boys. We try our best to keep them focused and humble,” said Grant.

Meanwhile, JC, under their new coach Neil Harrison, are expected to make their presence felt throughout the championship and could get closer to the top two than they did last year.

The likes of St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS), St Jago High, Excelsior High, Petersfield High, Bellefield High could create their fair share of problem by taking away points from the more fancied teams.

Action start on the track at 1:00 pm with the Class One boys long jump preliminary, which will have hot favourite Wayne Pinnock of KC aiming to legally soar pass the coveted eight-metre mark.

That will be followed by the javelin open, the Class three 100m hurdles, Class two 110m hurdles and the 800m for all classes. The 200m will follow and the first day's activities will end with the steeplechase open preliminaries at 9:25 pm.

Another fascinating championship full of drama, excitement, joy and sadness is in store over the five days. There will be no charge for today's opening day.

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