IPSAC and ISSAC 2017 in review

Vincentians who had the good fortune to attend the National Lotteries Authority Inter Primary Schools Athletics Championships (IPSAC) and the Inter Secondary Schools Athletics Championships (ISSAC) finals on 22 and 23 March 2017 at the Arnos Vale Sports Complex, came away with immense satisfaction.
Patrons to the IPSAC and ISSAC were delighted at the competitive nature of the events and felt certain that the sport of track and field athletics has a bright future in this country.
The two days of finals often witnessed events that brought spectators to their feet, cheering on athletes whose commitment to their schools spurred them on to give of their very best.
In many respects, every one of the finalists was a winner.
Interestingly, on the eve of the Championships, we used this Column to highlight those athletes whom we felt were sufficiently well prepared to make the events spectacular and they did not disappoint.
The Kingstown Preparatory Schools came from behind to capture top honours at the IPSAC.
At the ISSAC, the St Vincent Grammar School achieved a marvellous sixth straight lien on the Boys’ title while the Central Leeward Secondary School showed that last year’s move up the ladder to second place in the Girls’ segment was no fluke as they ran away with top honours by an exceptionally wide margin.
March Pass delight
For yet another year the Union Island Secondary School took home the March Pass title with their prepared delivery to their selected music. Indeed, the patrons have grown accustomed to the attractive feature presentation of the Union Island students in the March Pass.
It has also become noticeable that the trend of the Union Island Secondary School to be extremely well-dressed for the annual Parch Pass has been readily taken on board by several other secondary schools. This year would have witnessed the largest number of schools dressed in track suits for the opening ceremony of the ISSAC.
It must also be stated here that at the level of both the IPSAC and ISSAC there was much more attention paid to how the teams conducted themselves in the March Pass, giving a fitting start to the proceedings.
National Lotteries Authority IPSAC
At the start of the finals the Buccament Government Primary School was ahead on pints and many expected that it would have been extremely difficult for any other school to catch them during the day.
Of course, the records now show that the Kingstown Preparatory School delivered on the day of the finals with every competing student reaching deep for that extra burst of energy to add the points to the team’s tally.
One of the amazing features of this year’s edition of the National Lotteries Authority IPSAC was the fact that the medals were more widespread across schools around the country than ever before.
54 of the primary schools participated and 42 of them had athletes who made it to the finals. This was an outstanding achievement.
Most importantly however was the fact that the athletes came to compete, giving of their best and that is exactly what the patrons got. In the process, a total of 18 new records were established.
It should be noted that the support for the National Lotteries Authority IPSAC, while continuing to grow, remains rather weak. Some suggest that it may have to do with the fact that as yet the Ministry of Education has not offered the schools the day off to attend the Championships.
However, there is no guarantee that the provision of a day off would necessarily yield larger crowds since some may simply seize the opportunity to go to the beach or engage in other activities.
There is nonetheless little doubt that organisers must review the strategies currently being used to promote the annual National Lotteries Authority IPSAC such that the athletes would have many more people looking on and cheering their performances.
National Lotteries Authority ISSAC
The St Vincent and the Grenadines Grammar School wasted no time this year in setting the stage for their sixth consecutive National Lotteries Authority ISSAC title amongst the Boys’ schools. The athletes dominated the heats and confirmed that they were better prepared than the others such that they were convincing winners.
The St Martin’s Secondary School finished second though not close enough to have, at any time, pose a threat to the Grammar School in the points standing.
Indeed, the St Martin’s Secondary had to concern itself with staving off a challenge for the second position from the Central Leeward Secondary School.
Kyle Lawrence of the St Martin’s Secondary, amassed a total of 45 points to win the Junior Division. His outstanding all-round performances were sufficient to hand him the Victor Ludorum title and trophy in the final awards.
In the Girls’ division, Ulanda Lewis’ 40 points was a significant contribution to the Central Leeward Secondary School’s runaway victory. The 12-year-old athlete swept all before her in the 100m, 200m and 400m and delivered what was easily the day’s single most spectacular and entertaining run, coming from 20m back on the last changeover to bring her team to victory in the 4 x 200m relay for Juniors. The victory left the crowd simply stunned. In winning that particular event Lewis captured the hearts of the patrons, especially those in the VIP area, most of whom stood to pay her due tribute.
Lewis established two new records for the junior category. In the 100m, her time of 13 secs smashed the old record set in 2013 by Daria Matthews of 13.24. In the 200m, she demolished the mar set in 2011 by Shafiqua Maloney of 26.81 with a new time of 26.13.
Interestingly, for the year 2017, Lewis has already run faster in both events while competing abroad ion synthetic surfaces, and currently holds the national record for them.
It has been some time since St Vincent and the Grenadines has produced an athlete who, at age 12, has been performing with times equal to or better than all home-based athletes, regardless of age.
Tamara Woodley of the Girls’ High School and who hails from Bequia, emerged Victrix Ludorum with some very outstanding performances at the senior level., amassing a total of 49 points, the most by any athlete in the National Lotteries Authority ISSAC.
Javon Rawlins, with 37 points copped the senior divisional title.
Interestingly, Rawlins and Woodley appear prime candidates for the multievents going forward, a feature that has not really been tried in St Vincent and the Grenadines since Ayrton Clouden did so several decades ago.
Another athlete from the Central Leeward Secondary School, Zita Vincent, set new records in the intermediate division in the 800m (2:27.89) and the 3000m (11.09.56).
In all, a total of 10 new records were established.
As was the case with the IPSAC so too with the ISSAC. The crowds were not what they could be and the organisers must take time to understand just what is the cause and take immediate measures to address it.
Talk is cheap and in this country many simply allow themselves to run off their mouths without caution.
Interestingly when Ulanda Lewis stunned the opposition at the Central Leeward sports competition at the Victoria Park, some of this country’s senior and more experienced coaches thought it appropriate to suggest that the times announced were not correct. Indeed they went so far as to state that there was something wrong with the photo-finish equipment. It was their experienced view that it was not possible for Ulanda Lewis to be running that fast at 12 years old in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
As it turns out, the coaches in question were really making the remarks largely because they have been plying the line that the school’s physical education teacher cannot coach. What they really mean is that they do not want him to coach any of their athletes.
The problem for these coaches going forward is that the system is working and they are not involved. They have absented from the several training sessions led by Canadian expertise that started in February 2016 and would end in May of this year. Reference is made here to the Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) programme. This is a scientific approach to the development of athletes from their very early years after birth through to adulthood and possible elite status.
The thrust going forward for the several sports that have completed the LTAD project and the coaches involved emphasises paying due attention to the athlete such that his/her development pathway is scientifically prepared, analysed, monitored and evaluated at every stage. There is no room for guesswork.
Those coaches that have absented themselves from the programmes are largely the ones who are still experiencing severe problems in the preparation of programmes for their respective athletes. The majority of them continue to operate from the top of their heads, leaving the athletes unable to collaborate with their peers who are on more scientific programmes.
The fact is that development is taking place.
More athletes are currently exposed to some form of training although not all coaches are taking the time to prepare programmes for these athletes.
The future
The future of athletics and the annual NLA IPSAC and ISSAC seems very bright.
Already we are seeing schools deliberately reaching out to parents to have their children with athletics potential make their schools their first option following CPEA. This will continue well into the future. There is nothing wrong with this.
The physical education teachers would have to seek out coaches who can help them in preparing their student athletes.
Importantly, though, the coaches must be increasingly familiar with the LTAD approach and use them across the board in the country. This is the approach that would be implemented by the TASVG for the next five years and all coaches are expected to get on board. There must be an end to the guesswork.
Coaches must be able to communicate with their athletes in respect of what their programmes are for the next year. Athletes must be able to share with their parents the coaching programmes and discuss realistically where these are supposed to take them in the sport as well as how this fits in with their academic programmes. The balance must be established.
Parents and athletes must always be aware of what the athlete has to do in respect of his/her athletics progression each day of training.
As it is too many of the coaches have no plan. Others have plans borrowed from elsewhere with no understanding of what it means to the athlete sin their charge. Yet others simply work the athletes to death. Too many are simply overworked.
We have some athletes are actually running slower as they get older. This is a coaching problem.
The future will be much brighter for those who follow the Vincentian LTAD model for track and field athletics. It is the scientific way to go.
Meanwhile, the memories of NLA IPSAC and ISSAC 2017 remain with all those that had the good fortune of witnessing it whether live or online.