Impressive developments at NLA Inter Schools 2014

Inter-Sec Heats AVSC Mar 18 2010 431The patrons came in their thousands and the athletes, as if imbued with a great sense of school pride and motivated by the desire to give of their very best served up a most impressive two days of finals for the annual National Lotteries Authority (NLA) Inter Schools Athletics Championships at the Arnos Vale Sports Complex last week.
On Wednesday 9 April it was the turn of the Inter Primary Schools’ students to shine while on Thursday 10 April, the secondary school students did their thing in fine style.
The Schools Games Committee and the Athletics Sub Committee collaborated to ensure that the annual Championships were of a particularly high standard, consistent with the past several years.
The Athletics Sub Committee, charged with responsibility for all aspects of the preparations for the NLA Inter Schools Athletics Championships, commenced the planning process in 2013 shortly after the conclusion of the competition last year. This was in order to engage in a comprehensive analysis of the annual event and benefit from the recommendations made to improve the delivery to the athletes, first and foremost, and expected throng of patrons.
The Sub Committee is composed of representatives from the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Sport, the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment, the Department of Sport in the Ministry of Tourism, Sport and Culture, the Police, the Sports Medicine Association, the Primary Schools’ Head Teachers’ Association, The Secondary Schools’ Principals’ Association, the National Sports Council, the Curriculum Development Unit, the St Vincent Red Cross, and is headed by Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Sub Committee has several different components: Secretariat (with responsibility for Registration, Meet Management and Photo Finish), Technical (involving field preparations, the training of technical officials, the identification of equipment, the layout and marking of the track), Finance (inclusive of Ticketing and Gates), Accommodation for the schools from the Southern Grenadines, Transportation, Medical, Public Health, Ceremonies (Opening and Awards), Entertainment, Decorations, Protocol and Security.
Every effort was made to ensure that the Championships would be a delight for all involved enough for them to be satisfied that the intended standard was achieved.
As has now become the norm the already idyllic Arnos Vale #1 was readily transformed into a multi-coloured grassed track of 350m, much to the delight of everyone in attendance, especially the athletes.
There are always challenges with the preparation for what is easily the single largest sporting event on the annual schools’ calendar and the most eagerly anticipated.
It was perhaps unfortunate that the track was not rolled but at least the athletes benefitted from the work that had been undertaken by the NSC in preparing for the cricket match, Windward Islands versus Combined Colleges and Campuses, which ended on the evening of Sunday 6 April, leaving two days for the Sub Committee to mark and dye the track.
Three years ago the Schools Games Committee made the decision to reintroduce the Inter Primary Schools Athletics Championships in a very serious way. The first year there were only a few schools involved and the Heats were conducted on one day.
In 2013, 30 Primary Schools registered and the Heats were then run over two days allowing for two distinct zones to be brought to Arnos Vale to get the best conditions under which to compete.
This year, 51 Primary Schools registered, a major record given that there are 66 such institutions in the country. Unfortunately, the large number of athletes in each of the two zones proved a challenge in respect of completing the Heats and a third day had to be inserted to aid with the completion of this aspect of the competition. That still left the slew of 4 x 200m Relays for the Under 11 and Over 11 age categories to be run off as Final heats n the day of the Finals, Wednesday 9 April.
On the day of the Finals, the Athletics Sub Committee was able to complete all of the events as planned and still have the competition conclude at 3.30pm.
The Kingstown Preparatory School showed the nation that the preparatory work undertaken all year was most beneficial as they dethroned defending champions, Layou Government School in an enthralling day of athletics excitement before a mammoth crowd.
The Buccament Government, Layou Government and CW Prescod all gave good account. One of the surprises of the competition came from the students of the Pamellus Burke Primary School.
One thing is certain and it is that the Primary Schools of this country have begun to respond positively to the development of athletics. The strategy of TASVG to have coaches operate in zones with special emphasis on the students at the primary schools is definitely yielding positive results.
The work of Ian Sardine, Debbie Jordan, Chester Morgan and Lerroyd Scrubb remains most commendable and serves as a good example for others.
The biggest surprise of the Inter Primary competition was the attendance. Parents of students came out in their numbers quickly filling the Michael Findlay and Frank Thomas pavilions, forcing an overflow of some substance into the double decker stands on the eastern side of the Arnos Vale Sports Complex.
Never before have we witnessed so many people in attendance at a competition to watch their children perform in athletics and it certainly augurs well for the sport.
The Secondary Schools component of the annual NLA Athletics Championships was also particularly exciting.
As expected Roberto Boyde made light work of the other competitors in both the 100m and 200m event even though his times were not as impressive as his performance in the Heats. Still, the young athlete displayed a fairly high level of sprinting enough to justify his selection to the national team to the annual Carifta Games in Martinique this weekend.
Among the girls Shantel Rouse won every individual running event in which she participated – 100m, 200m, 400, 800m, copping the Victrix Ludorum title with relative ease. She was simply unstoppable.
There were some other outstanding performances. Akani Slater completed the double when winning the 1500m and 800m respectively although not without a serious challenge.
Union Island gave very good account especially in the Senior Boys high jump where they took the gold and silver medals.
The Georgetown Secondary School also had good performances.
Pamenos Ballantyne’s charges from the St Martin’s Secondary School continued their dominance of their age group distance event.
At the conclusion of the Championships, the St Vincent Grammar School easily retained the boys’ title while the St Joseph Convent Kingstown took home top honours amongst the girls.
The Thomas Saunders Secondary School remained a force to contend with taking second spot in both categories.
The Secondary Schools component of the NLA Inter Schools Athletics Championships was once more well attended and patrons were treated to some very keen competition.
Looking ahead
If there is one thing that this year’s NLA Inter Schools Athletics Championships brought to the fore is the urgency of getting a synthetic surface for our track and field athletes.
It is unfortunate that this year with such an impressive array of talent amongst our children they have to be content with the fact that their true potential cannot be readily realised on a grassed surface such as we had at Arnos Vale for the two days of finals, which was not ideally suited for their engagement.
The surface of the track was not of the best and in some instances may well have placed some of the athletes at risk of serious injury given that it was not rolled and therefore not consistent for them.
The unavailability of the Arnos Vale Playing Field for the final three weeks or preparation for the NLA Inter Schools Athletics Championships took heavy toll on the athletes attempting to peak at the right time. The alternatives available to them were not particularly suited to their requirements at the time.
Until such time as a synthetic surface is provided our athlete swill always suffer as they strive to raise their performance standards and make it to national representative teams to events like the Carifta Games.
Coaches and physical education teachers must nonetheless be highly commended for the level of preparation in which they engaged their athletes to facilitate the outcome of last week’s competition. Nonetheless they must also be aware that the athletes could have done better had there been a synthetic surface and had they been more forthcoming with the sharing of information and engaged in closer collaboration in the interest of producing higher quality performances.
There is an urgent need for Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines (TASVG) to engage the coaches in spreading to every part of our beautiful country exposing ever more children to the fundamentals of the sport.
The emphasis that TASVG has begun to place on the establishment of community-based multisport clubs has to be strengthened and more coaches brought on board.
Students have to be taken along an athletics development pathway that is based on the Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model and already TASVG’s technical Director, Chester Morgan, has begun to focus on this approach and would be working closely with our coaches to harmonise efforts aimed at building the sport from the base through to elite status.
TASVG must continue to work in close collaboration with the schools of the nation to ensure that the quality of the preparation of the athletes consistently improves bringing attention to their performances and in the process, leading to sport to ever higher heights of achievement.