Jamaica's schools extravaganza


Ready to shine!

High schoolers on show as Champs begin

BY PAUL A REID Observer writer reidp@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

After months of preparation since last year and competitions since January, the crème de la crème of Jamaica’s high school track and field talent will be on display over the next four days, starting this morning at the GraceKennedy/ISSA Boys and Girls Athletics Championships at the National Stadium.

Defending girls champions Holmwood Technical, who will be gunning for their seventh straight title, and Calabar High boys, who will be seeking their third straight and 22nd overall, will start as favourites.

One of the largest number of teams ever - 192 team comprising 98 boys and 94 girls schools - will compete for a share of the points.

Thirty-six boys schools scored at least a point last year while 33 girls schools got off the mark.

Four events - three girls and one boys - will be decided on today’s first day which starts at 8:15 am with the 110m hurdles event in the boys’ heptathlon.

The Boys’ Class One long jump will be decided as well as the girls’ triple jump Open and Classes One and Three discus throws.

Additionally, the first rounds of the 200m in all classes will be contested, as well as the 800m and the first rounds of the 4x100m relays.

Already, coaches of the defending champions are expressing confidence they will retain their titles but are expecting keen competition from the first day through Saturday’s final day.

Holmwood’s Maurice Wilson said he was not expecting a “pretty win” where his athletes will set many records and run fast times, but says “we will pick up one point here and two points there and be very happy.”

Wilson, who has been at the Manchester institution for 13 years since 1996, thinks it will take about 311 points to win the title after amassing 352 last year to beat Vere Technical, 210.5 and Edwin Allen, 206.

“Contrary to what many might be saying”, Wilson pointed out yesterday, “we will be very competitive in Classes One and Two”, adding that several schools who can’t win Champs will take vital points.

According to the championship-winning coach, schools such as The Queen’s, Herbert Morrison Tech, Wolmer’s Girls and Alpha Academy whom have outstanding athletes will “hurt those of us who are seeking championships honours”.

Wilson said his team has always responded well to pressure and believes if they are “pushed early, in the first two days, people will see the best of us”. He however cautioned that if they get away early, there is a possibility they could get complacent.

Holmwood have one injury concern in Class One runner Sashine Gayle, who Wilson says will compete only in the relays.

“She picked up an injury at Gibson Relays and I don’t want to rush her as I think she’s a special athlete and don’t want to rush her back too soon,” he told the Observer.

Meanwhile, respective coaches of Manchester High and Edwin Allen, Jerry Holness and Michael Dyke, who are expected to challenge Holmwood, are playing their cards close to their chests.

Both are predicting a close championships and said they will play their part, but claim they are not expecting to make a run at the title.

Dyke said Edwin Allen “will be very competitive, especially in Class One”, adding that it would take between 280 to 285 points to win the Champs.

Dyke told the Observer that Edwin Allen could win Champs “if all goes well for us and other teams take away points from the top schools”.

Holness backed down from making any predictions, saying Manchester High were going to Champs “not to challenge for the title but to compete well and compete from the start to the final night and to go for a place in the top four”.

He said they will score the bulk of their points on the track as "we are still struggling to put together a competitive field events programme, but noted that for the first time they will compete well in Class One with the likes of last year’s triple champion Natoya Goule, Deniesha Morrison and Shanna-gay Tracey.

On the boys side, Calabar will field one of the most rounded teams in the competition and should hand coach Michael Clarke his 11th title, including one with St Jago and seven with Jamaica College.

Clarke was busy making last-minute preparations when the Observer caught up with him yesterday and when asked how confident he was of retaining the title, said: “I don’t know anything about winning Champs; we’re in good shape, we’re prepared and in high spirits.”

He said they would be “competitive” and rates the team to be just as good as last year’s and said it will “maintain our balance.”

Clarke said he is not one of the coaches who counts points before Champs but said they should score points in most events, especially in Class One and in the Open events where he believes they “have a significant edge over the other schools”.

His Class Two and Three teams, he said, are also balanced and would be able to compete well.

Michael Russell, who will guide Kingston College for the second year, was exuding quiet confidence when he spoke to the Observer yesterday.

“We have a very good chance of winning Champs this year and are looking at the field events which has been our area of strength traditionally,” he said.

He said he was expecting Kingston College, Calabar and Wolmer’s Boys to compete for the majority of the points in the field events, but added that “it will come down to the performance on the day”.

A total of between 240 to 250 points, he contends, should be enough to win the Mortimer Geddes Trophy and predicted that “based on the spread of talent, Champs this year should be one of the closest we’ve had in years”.

Last year Calabar won by 44.5 points but Russell predicts it could be closer this time around.

Evans, Tomlinson top Milo Junior GP series

By Howard Walker Observer staff reporter walkerh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Edwin Allen High’s Gayon Evans and Brandon Tomlinson of Manchester won the individual prizes at the inaugural staging of the Nestle Milo Grand Junior Prix awards ceremony yesterday.

In fact, schools from the central region copped the four awards worth $500,000 at Nestle Jamaica’s New Kingston office yesterday.

Suzanne Wilson-Wong (third left) of Nestle Jamaica Ltd hands over the winning trophies and cheque to Jerry Holness, coach of Manchester High School, at yesterday’s award ceremony for the Junior Grand Prix athletics series. Looking on (from left) are Kimberley Brown, Neisha Morgan, Natoya Goule and Charlene Brown.

Edwin Allen pocketed $100,000 after Evans topped the Milo Junior Grand Prix 100m event for girls with 44 points. She won all of the five races, while getting the last one by default as the other competitors failed to turn up.

Evans chalked up eight points for the penultimate race at the Gibson Relays after only two athletes turned up and the points were shared.

Tomlinson won the boys section with 40 points aftert winning three of the five races, and Manchester High garnered $100,000.

Manchester, who also won the 4x800m relay with 58 points after winning four of the five events, pocketed $150,000 for a total of $250,000.

The quartet of Kimberly Brown, Neisha Morgan, Charlene Brown and Natoya Goule proved too powerful for Holmwood, who won the first event at the STETHS Invitational.

Holmwood did recoup losses, however, capturing $150,000 as their boys won all the relays to end with a maximum 60 points ahead of Bellefield with 46.

Jermaine Blake, Wayne McIntyre, Andre Headley and Kevin White were too good for the rest and will be a force to reckon with at the Penn Relays.

The Milo Grand Prix series started on January 31 at the STETHS Invitational Track Meet, then moved to JAAA/Puma/Jamalco Development Meet on February 7.

The next step was the Milo Western Relays a week later before moving onto the Gibson Relays on February 28 and ending on March 14 at the GC Foster last Chance Meet.

Suzanne Wilson-Wong, Nestle’s consumer marketing manager, said her company was proud of the journey which they embarked upon five weeks ago.

Said Wong: "The Milo Grand Prix, the first of its kind in Jamaica, afforded Milo another opportunity to make a contribution to the development of local athletics.

"We are elated that this prize money valued at half-a-million dollars will go towards these deserved schools and their sports programme.

Congratulations to you all because you are the first recipients of these awards."

She added: “We look towards the second staging… with great anticipation. It was an innovative concept.”

Andre Headley, a member of the winning Holmwood 4x800m team, gave the vote of thanks on behalf of the athletes.

Jerry Holness, coach of Manchester who spoke on behalf of the coaches, thanked Milo for “coming up with this innovative idea” and pointed out that all the prize winners were from the central region of Jamaica.

“We have once again proved to be the powerhouse region of Jamaica. I’m sure a lot of schools will be jealous this year and next year a number of other schools will participate,” said Holness.

The Milo Grand Prix results

Girls 100 m

Gayon Evans Edwin Allen High 44 pts

Kaycea Jones Edwin Allen High 29 pts

Leslie-Ann Mitchell Manchester High 15 pts

Ornella Livingston Holmwood Technical 8 pts

Jura Levy Vere Technical 6 pts

Shavine Hodges Herbert Morrison 6 pts

Audra Segree Holmwood Technical 5 pts

Boys 100 m

Brandon Tomlinson Manchester High 40 pts

Andrew Fisher Albert Town 25 pts

Sheldon Williams Holmwood Technical 22 pts

Roland Reid Munro 17 pts

Jermaine Gayle Vere Technical 9 pts

Bruce Mclean Manchester High 7 pts

Jermaine Barnaby Vere Technical 5 pts

Chadic Hines STETHS 1 pt

Girls 4x800 m relay

Manchester High 58 pts

Holmwood Technical A 2 pts

Holmwood Technical B 25 pts

Edwin Allen High 26 pts

Tacius Golding 14 pts

STETHS 6 pts

Boys 4x800 m relay

Holmwood Technical 60 pts

Bellefield High 46 pts

Edwin Allen High 37 pts

Kelits High 26 pts

STETHS 13 pts

Tacius Golding 10 pts

Usain Bolt 2012?

By Dania Bogle
Writing for BBC Caribbean in Kingston, Jamaica

Olympic champaion Usain Bolt got his start at this event
The world will catch a glimpse of who could be Jamaica’s future Olympic champions this week at the island’s annual high school Boys’ and Girls’ Athletic Championships at the National Stadium.
The Championships highlights the culmination of a season beginning in January with at least one ‘developmental’ meet a week in the three months before the meet, usually held the week before Easter.

Some of Jamaica’s most prolific athletes rose to prominence here. The names Herb McKenley, Donald Quarrie, and Merlene Ottey spring to mind.

The high school meet, has in the last 30 of its 90-plus year existence, earned the reputation of being the biggest in the English-speaking Caribbean.

There is added excitement this year following Jamaica’s 11-medal haul at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Champions springboard

All four individual gold medallists, including the 100m and 200m world record holder Usain Bolt, got their start at this event.

Two-time 200m winner Veronica Campbell-Brown, 100m gold medallist Shelly Ann Fraser and 400m hurdles winner Melaine Walker are the others who got their first taste of track and field stardom at the Championships.

100m World Junior champion Dexter Lee hoping to make a future mark in the adult league

The island is expecting an influx of international media, sports agents, and representatives from athletics’ world governing body IAAF.

British former two-time world champion and 110m hurdles world record holder Colin Jackson is among the noted athletes who will also watch the meet from Wednesday to Saturday as part of a delegation from sportswear manufacturers Puma, which also sponsors the country’s athletics association.

Former Olympic 100m champion Donovan Bailey and 2004 Olympics 400m hurdles gold medallist Felix Sanchez have been spotted among the massive crowds at past Championships.

“We have been getting strong requests and all indications are that as soon tickets go on sale on Wednesday morning (April 1) they will be completely sold out,” Organising Committee chairman, Clement Radcliffe, told BBC Caribbean.

The National Stadium seats approximately 25,000.

“Indeed, we have to be refusing because we have been getting requests daily and we have no space to accommodate them,” Radcliffe added.

Making a champ

Over 1000 athletes will be vying for titles in 30-plus events over the four days with a points system determining the champion school.

Among those to be on show are the reigning 100m World Junior champion Dexter Lee and 200m World Youth champion Ramone McKenzie.

2007 World Youth and 2008 World Junior Championships medallist Nickel Ashmeade suffered an unfortunate accident, breaking his elbow several weeks ago, and is doubtful to be ready in time to compete.

The rivalry among schools, especially the boy’s, during the four days of action, is palpable - the atmosphere, electric.

The National Stadium is expected to be at capacity late Saturday when the curtain comes down on the event.

Only two schools can crowned king and queen, but from a Jamaican perspective, there can be no losers.


Where medalists are moulded

By Dania Bogle,
Kingston, Jamaica

It’s a Saturday afternoon in late March and Kingston’s 25,000 seat National Stadium is threatening to burst at the seams.
Banners and school flags in a spectrum of colours flap in the light breeze, a drum rat-a-tat-tats away in the Grandstand and somewhere in the bleachers, a bugle sounds.

The atmosphere is electric.

It’s like this every year at Jamaica’s Boys & Girls Athletic Championships.
Over 1000 athletes vying for titles in 30+ events over four days with a points system determining the champion school has been a major drawing card for spectators.

And in the last 30 of its 80 year existence, the high school meet has earned the reputation of being the biggest in the English-speaking Caribbean

We wanted to give Jamaicans an option to stay here to pursue athletics at the highest level possible…

Bruce James

It highlights the culmination of a season beginning in January with at least one ‘developmental’ meet a week in the three months leading up to the Championships.

Part of the success could lie in the fact that athletes have a chance to develop throughout their 5-7 years of high school, competing in classes against athletes in their age group.

A springboard for medalists

Some of Jamaica’s most prolific athletes rose to prominence here.
The names Herb McKenley, Donald Quarrie, and Merlene Ottey spring to mind.

Melaine Walker took Jamaica’s fifth gold in the 400m hurdles

The championships have been used as a springboard by locals to earn scholarships to US colleges where they get the coaching needed to further their athletic careers.

An educational grounding for life after athletics also helps.

Results were good for some – Merlene Ottey, Seoul Olympics silver medallist Grace Jackson, and double Olympic silver medalist Juliet Cuthbert are success stories – but many also faltered and got lost in the system.

Those stories encouraged Stephen Francis, Bruce James, and David Noel in 1999 to form the MVP Club to train athletes and keep them in Jamaica after high school.

MVP’s biggest success before the 2008 Olympics was former 100m world record holder Asafa Powell, who incidentally, was not very successful in his high school years.

Dania Bogle speaks to Neil Nunes

“We wanted to give Jamaicans an option to stay here to pursue athletics at the highest level possible to show that we did not have to depend on the USA or its college system to develop our athletes,” said club president James.

A former high school athlete who attended Florida State on scholarship, James said the experience worked for him but is not ideal for everyone and emphasised that though the club isn’t anti-USA, it was borne of a need.

He admits that some Jamaicans do better in the US than they would with a local coach.

Keeping talents home

One such local coach is Glen Mills who conditions 2003 world champion Kim Collins and Olympic 100m champion and world record holder Usain Bolt.

Bolt was extremely successful at the high school championships setting several class records which still stand in the 200m and 400m.

When, just shy of his 16th birthday, he became the youngest 200m World Junior Champion at the 2002 IAAF Championships in Kingston, the country’s government was determined that Bolt would not be lost to the US, prompting them to put the infrastructure in place to keep him in Jamaica.

His and Shelly-Ann Fraser’s 100m gold medals at the Beijing Olympics could make a stronger case for Jamaican athletes to remain home after high school.

Athletics’ world governing body IAAF has funded a High Performance Centre based in Kingston while the success of national coaches Francis and Mills has already attracted several other Caribbean athletes to set up their bases in Jamaica.

Levy, Powell upset in girls discus finals

PAUL A REID, Observer writer Reidp@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Two upsets in the discus events marked yesterday’s opening day of the GraceKennedy/ISSA Girls’ Athletics Championships at the National Stadium.

Edwin Allen’s Vanessa Levy prepares for her winning 43.51-metre throw in the final of the Girls Class One discus on day one of the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls Athletic Championships at the National Stadium yesterday. (Photo: Bryan Cummings)
Edwin Allen’s Vanessa Levy won the Class 1 event ahead of the highly touted St Hugh’s pair of Candicea Bernard and Micara Vassell, while Manchester High’s Sheena Powell beat favourite Kellion Knibb of St Jago in the Class 3 final.

Paced by their stable of throwers, St Hugh’s lead after three events with 19 points, one more than St Jago, with defending champions Holmwood Technical in third place on 16 points.

Maurice Wilson, the man who has guided Holmwood to six straight titles, said the first day was “average” and a “mixed one” for them.

"I would not necessarily say this is where we wanted to be " he said, pointing out that they are “about three or four points off their first-day target.”

Sheena Powell of Manchester High displays her medal after landing the Girls Class Three discus title on the first day of the ISS/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls Championships at the National Stadium yesterday. Powell won with a PR 36.96 metres. (Photo: Bryan Cummings)
The failure to get anyone in the finals of the Class 3 high jump and discus, said Wilson, is a big blow but said they would be “OK”.

Today he said would be crucial to their chances of taking home a seventh title, “this is a day that can decide where the championships go, we cant watch others and their mistakes, we must continued to maximise on our events and we are scraping points where ever we can get them.”

Edwin Allen’s coach Michael Dyke said while they have more points than he predicted after the first day, they suffered “major setbacks in the relays that will affect us later on in the meet”.

Edwin Allen failed to advance in the Class 3
and 4 4x100m relays and this will cost them “about 18 points”.

The Class 4 team turned up late due to “some misunderstanding” while the Class 3 team
was disqualified.

Levy produced a lifetime best 43.51m in the first round and held on to beat Bernard, who threw 43.30m on her first attempt in the final, while Vassell was third with 40.79m.

Bernard came into the meet leading with 43.01m and was expected to win going away.

An excited Levy told the Observer she was not surprised and is still improving in the event.
After failing to make it to the finals in Class 2 last year, Levy said, “I was not surprised (with the win). I knew I had the potential to win but I just had to get my whip down and give it all I got.”

Levy, who said she was still trying to improve her release, said she was aiming at the meet record of 44.40m set 11 years ago in 1998 by Manchester’s Tanya Thomas but was happy for the gold medal.

The other upset came in the first final when Manchester’s Powell beat red hot favourite Knibb of St Jago in the Class 3 event.

Knibb, who was third last year and who dominated the lead-up meets with a PR 40.44m at Central Champs, was not only expected to win, but also to smash the record of 38.70m set in 2000 by Holmwood’s Peta-gaye Beckford. Instead she had to settle for silver with 36.35m behind Powell’s 36.96m PR effort.

Immaculate’s Samantha Johnson was third with 31.58m, snatching the bronze from St Hugh’s Shaunakaye Robinson (30.98m).

In the other final completed, STETHS’s Carifta representative and favourite in today’s Class 2 long jump Rochelle Farquharson took the triple jump Open, jumping a personal best 12.70m.

Farquharson, who was fifth last year beat St Jago’s Tanya Bryan whose 12.34m was helped by a massive 7.4m/s wind while Vere Technical’s Shanieka Thomas was third in 12.29m.

Four more finals will be decided on today’s second day, the high Jump Class 3, long jump class 2 and 4 and shot put Open.

In the high jump event, three girls have already jumped higher than the Champs record 1.74m set in 1997 by Meadowbrook’s Shelly-Ann Gallimore this season.

Holmwood’s Janieve Russell, who cleared 1.80m at CARIFTA Trials, will start favourite, just ahead of Edwin Allen’s Kimberly Williamson and Manchester High’s Chanice Porter who cleared 1.75m.

STETHS’ Reid will be seeking her second gold in two days today when she line sup in the Class 2 long jump and her season best 5.85m leads St Jago’s Bryan (5.52m) and St Andrew High’s Kathie-lee Laidley who was third last year.

The St Hugh’s pair of Vassell, who set the Champs record 12.80m last year, and Bernard, who was second, will try to repeat in the shot put Open, but Levy will be buoyed by her success yesterday and along with teammate Sasha Gay Marston, will be on the hunt for medals and points.

Points standings after three finals

St Hugh’s 19
St Jago 18
Holmwood 16
Edwin Allen 13
Manchester 9
Wolmer’s Girls’ 9
Vere 6
Immaculate 6
Morant Bay 5
St Andrew High 1

Fever pitch! - Olympic legend calls Champs atmosphere the stepping stone to greatness
Published: Thursday | April 2, 2009

Anthony Foster, Gleaner Writer

Bridgeport High School’s Jazeel Murphy leads the field off the turn in the Class Two boys’ 200m heats, on the opening day of the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletic Championships at the National Stadium yesterday. Murphy, the gold medal favourite, won in 21.47 seconds, the fastest time recorded over the half-lap event for the day. Also pictured is Kwesi Williams of Grange Hill High School. - Ian Allen/Staff Photographer

Boys and Girls’ Athletic Championships, outside of bringing tremendous excitement to a full stadium of Jamaicans once a year, provides unforgettable moments for those the competition is all about - the athletes.

Champs began yesterday and action gets under way every morning at 8:15, continuing until 7:40 at night. The excitement of the event, though celebrations continue for much longer, comes to an end on Saturday night when the kings and queens of schoolboy and schoolgirl track and field will be crowned.

The championships have always been the stepping stone for those athletes who have gone down in our history as great. One such athlete, perhaps one of the greatest, has fond memories of the event.


Olympic 200m champion Veronica Campbell-Brown, a former star of Vere Technical High, last competed for her school in 2001, winning the sprint double in 11.13 seconds (100m) and 22.92 (200m).

The year before, Campbell-Brown ran 11.62 and 23.49 for the double, before going on to capture the double at the World Junior Championships in Santiago de Chile.

Interestingly, in 1999 she was beaten in the Class Two sprint double by another future Olympic champion - 400m hurdle gold medallist Melaine Walker.

Champs is the event where stars are born.

“I must point out that I am particularly thankful for all my victories and experiences at the Boys and Girls’ Championships. Every bit of my hard work has paid off,” said Campbell-Brown.


In her International Association of Athletics Federations diary, the sprint sensation made sure to give all athletes a healthy dose of the good old ‘break-a-leg’.

“I wish all participants at Champs the very best,” she said.

“If you can compete at Champs you can compete anywhere.”

Campbell-Brown was not able to make it to the annual track and field highlight but her distance from the island has not dampened how much it means to her.

“Although I am not living in Jamaica right now, my heart is still there,” added the athlete, who has assisted regularly with the nutrition programme for the track team at Vere.

Second straight title

Campbell-Brown, who in Beijing last summer won her second straight Olympic 200m title, said, “Champs, as we call it, is very dear to all us Jamaican athletes as this was where we got our first taste of big-time track and field, where we ran rounds for the first time and were watched by thousands of very loud spectators.”

Campbell-Brown’s 11.13 still stands as the Class One girls’ 100m record.

“There are so many memorable moments; the anticipation, the vigorous training sessions, the extreme competitions, the thrill of winning, the joy of celebrating my school’s victories, also the cheers and energy of the thousands of supporters.”

Though Campbell-Brown’s Vere Technical team is not fancied to take the title this year, the athletics superstar remains hopeful.



Scalpers selling Saturday’s grandstand tickets for $3,000Published: Thursday | April 2, 2009

Elton Tucker, Assistant Editor - Sport


Grandstand tickets for Saturday, the final of the four-day GraceKennedy/ISSA Boys and Girls’ Athletic Championships, were being sold by scalpers for almost twice their face value, outside the National Stadium ticket office yesterday.

Late yesterday afternoon, tickets which were being sold by the organisers for $1,600 were being offered, a short distance from where two policemen stood guarding the ticket office, for $3,000.

The last set of grandstand tickets for the final day were sold out yesterday as fans lined up from as early as before 7 a.m. to purchase the under 300 which were still available.

Tickets, even for the grandstand on the final day, are usually on sale as late as the third day of the four-day meet.

It appears, however, that this year, several schools purchased hundreds more than the usual number of tickets, which are made available to these institutions by the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association, prior to putting them on the market.


Chairman of the organising committee for the championships, Glenmuir High principal Clement Radcliffe, yesterday sought to explain the reason for the scarcity of tickets for the grandstand on Saturday.

“Normally, we tell schools to order tickets in advance, both for themselves, which is complimentary, and for purchase. Frankly, when it was checked (recently), they were accessing far too many more than we had planned and we had to put a stop to that. So some of the tickets went out through that system early but it went to the schools,” Radcliffe said.

According to Radcliffe, tickets (for the grandstand on Saturday) were on sale up to about 10 a.m. yesterday.

“Maybe 200 … 300 at the ticket office because I went there and bought myself,” Radcliffe added.

According to reports yesterday, large blocks of final-day tickets for premium areas of the grandstand (those areas close to the finish line) were sold out long before the tickets were made available to the public.

The grandstand has a capacity of approximately 4,950, but fewer than 4,000 tickets were sold as the others were made available to sponsors. As many as 24,000 bleachers tickets are available for Saturday.


Elton Tucker, Assistant Editor - Sport

Holmwood Technical’s Janieve Russell clears the bar on her way to winning the girls’ Class Three high jump, with a record-breaking leap of 1.77m, on day two of the four-day Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletic Championships at the National Stadium yesterday. - Ian Allen/Staff Photographer

Holmwood Technical look home and dry in the race for the girls’ title, but the battle for the boys’ crown will be hot between defending champions Calabar High and Kingston College over the last two days of the 2009 GraceKennedy/ISSA Boys and Girls’ Athletic Championships.

Last night, after seven finals, Holmwood led the girls with 48 points, 13 ahead of St Hugh’s with 35. They are followed by Edwin Allen 28, St Jago 24, Wolmer’s 21 and Vere Technical 19.

Five finals complete

With five finals completed in the boys’ section, the Michael Russell-coached Kingston College lead the way with an impressive 53 points, with Jamaica College in second on 37, Calabar third with 36, Wolmer’s 30 and Bridgeport 12. St George’s, with six, round off the top six.

The usually reliable Champs Preview which has tipped Calabar to top the championships by nine points - 266 to KC’s 257 - had forecast that the defending champions would be clear by 24 points (after six finals) at the end of the second day.

KC at this time, however, look good for their 31st title overall and the Michael Clarke-coached Calabar will have to dig very deep to retain their title on the final two days of the four-day meet.

Last night KC’s coach Russell was satisfied.

“Based on the predictions we are not supposed to be here, but based on what we know we can do we are just about there,” Russell said.

Calabar’s coach Michael Clarke, in summing up the day, said “It could have been better.”

Like Russell, Holmwood’s Maurice Wilson was satisfied with his team’s showing after two days.

“It will not be a beautiful win, but we are getting the points in the various areas,” Wilson said.

Records broken

Four records were broken at press time on the second day.

Holmwood’s Janieve Russell, who is tipped to win at least three gold medals at the championships, two individual and one in the sprint relay, got off to a sparkling start. She won the Class Three high jump with a record leap of 1.77m, beating the 1.74m set by Wolmer’s Shanice Hall last year. Runner-up Kimberly Williamson of Edwin Allen equalled the old mark, while Manchester High’s Chanice Porter cleared 1.65m for third.

Also in record-breaking mood was K’Don Samuels of Jamaica College, who won the pole vault open with a leap of 4.45m, to add five centimetres to the 4.40m mark set by Kingston College’s Jabari Ennis in 1998.

Calabar’s Devon Dobson, 4.00m, was second and KC’s Xavier Boland, 3.80m, third.

The third record of the day came in the Class One boys discus, where pre-meet favourite Travis Smikle of Calabar threw 51.43m to smash the 51.05m Bridgeport’s Camoi Hood threw in 2005.

Yesterday Bridgeport’s Cleayon Smith (50.12m) was second and Smikle’s teammate, Chad Wright (49.67m), third.

St Hugh’s had a big, one-two finish in the girls’ shot put open.

Coach Michael Vassell saw his daughter Micara break a 28-year-old record with 12.87m, to beat the 12.82m set by Holmwood’s Marlene Lewsi in 1981.

And for good measure, his second string, Candicea Bernard, completed the ‘quinella’ with 12.84m. Edwin Allen’s Vanessa Levy, 12.03m, was third.

Results of yesterday’s finals:


High jump Class Three: 1. Janieve Russell (Holm) 1.77m (record), 2. Kimberly Williamson (Edwin Allen) 1.74m, Chanice Porter (Manch.) 1.65m, 4. Shanice Lee (St Andrew High) 1.65m, 5. Chennel Palmer (Vere) 1.65m, 6. Krista-Gay Taylor (Convent of Mercy) 1.60m.

Long jump Class Four: 1. Tamara Moncrieffe (Holm) 5.18m, 2. Shardia Lawrence (Vere) 5.27m, 3. Latavia Coombs (Holm) 5.13m, 4. Shauna Helps (Wolmer’s) 5.07m, 5. Kristen Deacon (Wolmer’s) 5.06m, 6. Kerri-Ann Francis (Immaculate) 5.04m.

Shot Put Open: 1. Micara Vassell (St Hugh’s) 12.87m (Record), 2. Candicea Bernard (St Hugh’s) 12.84m, 3. Vanessa Levy (Edwin Allen) 12.03m, 4. Shakeisha Miller (Holmwood) 11.73m, 5. Ashantia Hayden (Morant Bay) 11.52m, 6. Kerone Walker (Wolmer’s) 11.20m.

Long jump Class Two: 1. Kriss-Ann Walters (Excelsior) 5.87m, 2. Rochell Farquharson (Steths) 5.82m, 3. Tanya Bryan (St Jago) 5.79m, 4. Mellisa Walker (St Andre High) t Andrew High) 5.78m, 5. Kathie Lee Laidley (St Andrew High) 5.60m, 6. Sashawna Bennett (Holm) 5.60m.


Heptathlon: 1. Hansle Parchmen (KC) 4717 points, 2. Kamal Fuller (Wolmer’s) 4581, 3. Kevoy Biggs (JC) 4330, 4. Deuce Carter (Calabar) 4258, 5. Cleayon Smith (Bridgeport) 4195, 6. Horane Holgate (Morant Bay) 4116.

Pole Vault Open: 1. K"Don Samuels (JC) 4.45m (Record), 2. Devon Dobson (Calabar) 4.00m, 3. Xavier Boland (KC) 3.80m, 4. Hugh Lewis (JC) 3.70m, 5. Mikhail Russell (KC) 3.70m, 6. Deron Marshall (Ardenne) 3.00m.

Discus Class One: 1. Travis Smikle (Calabar) 51.43m (Record), 2. Cleayon Smith (Bridgeport) 50.12m, 3. Chad Wright (Calabar) 49.67m, 4. Shane Dodd (JC) 49.00m, 5. Oshane Harris (KC) 46.98m, 6. Omar Bryan (Munro) 46.49m.

Class Three high jump: 1. Clive Pullen (KC), 1.88m, 2. Javari Fairclough (Calabar) 1.85m, 3. Ashani Wright (JC) 1.85m, 4. Marvin Pinnock (KC) 1.80m.

Well it came down to a fantastic finish in the boy’s section today with Kingston College defeating Calabar by 1.5 points, came down to the 4x400m relay… The girls side of it however was a runaway victory for holmwood technical

Thanks SameOldG,

What were the performances which impressed you the most? And have you found any more Bolts or Powells et al.?:cool:

Champs of the world
The national obession that is Jamaica’s Boys and Girls Athletics Championships
Digg it Anna Kessel
The Observer, Sunday 5 April 2009
Article history

Talent unearthed at The National Championships has cemented Jamaica’s status as a top athletics nation. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

In Jamaica there is only one event that grips the nation like the Olympic Games or World Championships – the national Boys and Girls Athletics Championships. To the rest of the world “Champs” may sound like a glorified school sports day, but to Jamaicans it is the highlight of the year, with crowds of 30,000 people gathering from across the island to watch over 100 schools battle it out for title of “King” or “Queen”.

It is an event with 100 years of history – older even than our own national schools championships by 15 years – but it is only since the advent of Usain Bolt and his achievements in Beijing last summer that the rest of the world has begun to sit up and take notice.

As the four-day competition got underway last week its extraordinary hold over the island is immediately apparent. Everyone from hotel porters to fruit sellers in and around Kingston discuss which teenage stars to look out for.

Bars and restaurants set up TV screens to watch the proceedings as the event is broadcast live from the National Stadium, with network channel CVMTV estimating around 1.2m viewers – from a population of 2.8m. Detailed reports dominate the front pages of the island’s newspapers, with huge colour photographs hailing the nation’s freshest crop of track and field stars.

It is surreal, listening to people on the street debate the merits of 15-year-old sprinters. Everyone has an opinion on who will be the next Bolt or Shelly-Ann Fraser. In the national stadium, supporters of each high school demonstrate their loyalties, screaming for their favourites. Dressed in team colours – the supporters in the purple and white of Kingston College taking up a whole stand to themselves – they bang drums and enjoy soup and roast corn, or jerk chicken wrapped in tin foil. As darkness falls, groups of school kids making their way home take up sticks; there are often violent clashes on the streets outside the stadium. This is no token support, loyalty to high schools goes back generations through a family. Outside the perimeter fence one supporter stands with a gun tucked into his belt. “Y’alright?” he says with a grin.

Every Jamaican athlete worth their salt began at Champs – from Don Quarrie to Bolt himself – and each year the alumni return to watch the next generation. All of them credit the competition as the defining experience in their journey to success. There was even a story going around the island that Asafa Powell lacked mental toughness in competition because he did not compete enough at Champs as a kid. Surely there could not be any truth in it?

“Yeah. I think so, definitely,” says Bolt, who brought the house down, aged 16, at the 2003 Champs with a series of brilliant runs that culminated in a record-breaking 200m/400m double in 20.23sec and 45.30sec respectively. “Asafa only did Champs one year and he false started. It’s the biggest thing us athletes look forward to every year – I still go every year – it’s like the World Championships or the Olympics. It’s very competitive – especially the relays – the atmosphere changes completely when the relays start. It prepares you… if you’re not strong mentally, you’ll crack.”

British high jumper Germaine Mason, who grew up in Jamaica and holds the Champs under-16 high jump record, agrees. “The first time I competed I was 13 and really nervous. There were 30,000 people screaming and cheering, and I was shy to look in the stands, I had my head down. But the more I competed the more I got used to it. When I go to a major championships now I use that same method I used then to deal with the pressure.”

Mason says that before winning his silver medal in Beijing, an injury put doubt in his mind about his ability to compete. "I had forgotten all about how to approach things, but I thought, ‘I need to go back to my high-school days’. You just apply all that you learned from a young age.

“My record is still standing, 2.09, it’s been 10 years and every year I go there to watch and see if anyone breaks it. Champs is the biggest thing in track and field here, bigger than the [senior] national championships. It’s a traditional thing going way back, my dad did it, everyone’s dad did it, and the rivalries go way back depending on what school your family went to.”

Established in 1910, Champs are the bedrock of Jamaica’s commitment to athletics success. The country eats, sleeps and breathes the sport, with even primary school children competing at the national stadium in the “Preps”. Over 3,500 kids now compete annually at Champs, but the country’s athletics infrastructure goes beyond annual events. Former Prime Minister Michael Manley – close friends with Fidel Castro – established a legacy when, receiving a grant from Cuba, he set up the GC Foster College in 1978, a higher education institution whose sole aim was to produce sports coaches for Jamaica.

That investment has reaped rewards. “We now have an athletics coach in every school, college and kindergarten in the country,” explains Neville McCook, Council member of the IAAF and Secretary General of the Jamaica Olympic Association.

Unlike in the UK, where schools competitions struggle for finance – although a new three-year sponsorship deal with Aviva has kept the event alive up to 2012 – Champs has so much sponsorship money there are leftover funds to help pay for other sports such as hockey and basketball.

“It costs $22m Jamaican [£174,000] to put on Champs each year,” says McCook, “which is paid for by our main sponsor, but we also have other sponsors and we get royalties from the broadcasts. That money also assists the colleges in preparing for Champs – which they do from June until March – the old boys association also pay a lot.” Like every other alumni on the island and abroad, McCook is expected to dig into his own pocket to help fund future stars. McCook typically sponsors five athletes a year to help pay for, among other costs, medical bills and dental care. “One chapter in New York donated about $20,000 [£13,500], and three years ago our chapter in Miami put up a large sum to put up a new schools canteen.”

Jamaicans say it is no surprise that their small island won an unprecedented 11 Olympic medals on the track last summer. While some prominent voices in the media questioned such prolific success, Jamaicans pointed to their investment – and results – at all age groups in recent years. While the rest of the world are fixated on the achievements of Bolt and his three gold medals and three world records in Beijing, Jamaica is already looking ahead to a “second tier” of sprinters. Their excitement is justified.

Last year Jazeel Murphy, aged 15, ran 100m in 10.42sec. Compare that time to Mark Lewis Francis’s English schools record of 10.93sec – also aged 15 – and you begin to understand the depth of talent Jamaica has waiting in the wings. Dexter Lee, the current world junior champion over 100m, last night won the senior boys’ race in 10.35 seconds, and there are others, such as Yohan Blake, 19, – a former Champs record holder – who now trains with Bolt and claims to be running under 10 seconds in practice.

Such is the reputation of these youngsters that agents and scouts travel from the US to watch what they describe as the world’s best talent. Claude Bryan, agent for reigning 100m and 200m Olympic champion Veronica Campbell Brown, says the event is unique.

“Nowhere else in the world will you see 30,000 people cheering on high schoolers. This is the place to be. You’ve got scouts here, shoe companies here, university coaches here, this is the market place to be at. It’s very competitive.” Bryan says he doesn’t go to other schools events in the US or Europe, “No, they’re boring. For me there are only three track and field events I wouldn’t miss: the World Championships, the Olympic Games and the Champs.”

Slowly the rest of the world is beginning to cotton on. Last week the US announced a proposal to compete head-to-head against Jamaican sprinters from 2010, and McCook says IAAF President Lamine Diack wants to roll out the regional version of Champs – the Carifta Games (Caribbean Free Trade Association) – to the rest of the world.

Bryan questions whether Champs, can truly ever be replicated. "I doubt it. Imitate yes, but replicate? Next year is our 100th anniversary; this isn’t something we started yesterday. We have a great handle on what goes on here.

"Try getting 30,000 people screaming and cheering at kids anywhere else in the world, it’s virtually impossible, but other nations, if they want to start reaping the rewards, they do have to start now, the formative years is where it happens.

“Jamaica has the template and other nations should try to imitate it. Veronica Campbell says if you can compete at Champs you can compete anywhere. It gives you an indication as to the intensity here. So when a Jamaican athlete walks into an 80,000-seat stadium, it’s just another day.”

British athletics organisers can only dream of such a day. Despite luminaries such as Paula Radcliffe testifying to the importance of national schools competitions, the English schools championships attracts a crowd of less than 4,000, and is struggling to pay its bills. The Aviva money – around £160,000 over three years – is keeping the organisation afloat, but the costs of putting on the event are at £250,000 and reserves are running low. David Littlewood, secretary of the English Schools Athletics Association, worries what the future might hold. “We can only survive on our reserves for another four years maximum and then we would have to close down. We’ve never had any government or lottery money, we’re on a tightrope budget. If it wasn’t for Aviva, we would have disappeared last year.”

In a world where the financial climate is making sports sponsorship ever harder to come by, Bolt may just prove the unlikely saviour of Britain’s schools championships. It is Bolt’s achievements that have lifted athletics out of the doldrums and excited the world about the sport. Even with the economic downturn sponsors are attracted to Bolt as a figurehead to promote their business.

Bolt says that he never follows athletics and is unaware of the bigger picture going on in the sport, yet he is sharply perceptive on what athletics needs to market itself.

“I think I put a spin on the sport,” says Bolt in a happy mix of Jamaican colloquialism and PR speak, “people enjoy what I do, that’s why people love to see me so much. Other people throw flowers in the crowd, jog around, wave, that’s it. But people look forward to seeing what I’m going to do, that’s my personality.”

The 22-year-old, who ran 9.69 with such ease in Beijing, says he can go even faster – when he wants to. “Every time you break the world record you get paid for it, so if I go 9.52 or 9.54 that’s going to be steep, but if I break it 9.68 or 9.65 there’s space for more.” The hottest property on earth throws back his head and laughs.

“I’m cool,” he says, “I’m awesome, man. I’m the fastest man in the world.” Athletics looks to have a bright future.

That same guy Jazeel Murphy you mentioned looks to be a great talent, has a flying top speed…Dexter Lee (another tall smooth sprinter) also showed his vast potential …One of the schoolboys Kemoy Campbell broke both the 1500m and 5000m records so I would say he would be the performer of the championships…Keiron Stewart, Kerron Stewarts brother is good too, he won the 110h and 400h…But it is the competition that breeds great athletes and makes most athletes get used to the pressure and nerves at an early stage…