IPSAC and ISSAC big showcase next week

Inter-Sec Heats AVSC Mar 18 2010 431On Tuesday 24 March and Wednesday 25 March 2015 all roads lead to the Arnos Vale Sports Complex where the very best track and field athletes at the Primary and Secondary schools of this nation will contest for top honours in the Inter Primary Schools Athletics Championships (IPSAC) and the Inter Secondary Schools Athletics Championships (ISSAC).
The heats have come and gone. Many students participated with this year recording the most primary schools ever participating in the event making it historic in this regard. The participating students were particularly enthused at having been able to compete at the same venue in an effort at making the finals.
At the end of the Heats for the Inter Primary Schools Athletics Championships the Layou Government School has a very extensive lead on the others, clear evidence of the work being undertaken in that part of the country by the coaches.
Layou has already amassed 66 points combined (male and female) with Cane End Government in second with 26 points and Buccament Government in third with 25 points.
Rather surprisingly the Stephanie Browne Primary from Union Island is in fourth position with 21 points.
In the male division Layou is out front with 28 points followed by Barrouallie Government (15), Pamellus Burke (14), Cane End Government (13) and Fizthughes Government (13) in that order.
Among the females, Layou is again ahead with 38 points. Following are Stephanie Browne (16), Buccament Government (14), Cane End Government (13), Mary Hutchinson (12) and Lowmans Leeward Anglican (12).
For the past few years children in Layou have been the beneficiaries of weekly training sessions organised by trained Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines (TASVG) coaches who are IAAF certified. They have also been a popular feature at the Mini Meets organised by TASVG.
Over time one would have been able to discern the improvements that have accompanied the enthusiasm they have for the sport. They never seem to tire.
Those in attendance at the four zones in the preliminaries of the IPSAC were truly impressed by the eagerness of all of the participants, especially when compared with their secondary school counterparts.
During the events it was pure joy to watch as every athlete sought to complete his/her event. The athletes walked away from the finish line proud to have competed, without falling down all over the place, again, quite contrary to what happened with so many of the secondary school athletes.
Athletes who fell or dropped the baton eagerly picked it up in order to give yeoman support to the team and the school.
At the finals of IPSAC due on Tuesday 24 March we can expect the parents and teachers of the various schools to journey to Arnos Vale to lend their support to their children and students in full force.
The Primary school system is the third stage in the development of future athletes. The first stage is in the home while the second is at pre-school. These stages are part of the Long Term Athlete Development Strategy that allows for a more scientific approach to introducing athletes to physical literacy and an active lifestyle.
At the primary school stage athletes are encouraged to participate in a variety of sports as they are, for the most part, too young to specialise. If the coaches give them a good start then they are likely to enjoy participating in sport and determine as they get older precisely which sport is of interest to them and engage themselves sin active sport for life.
At the conclusion of the Heats for the ISSAC in the female division the Central Leeward Secondary School (67) was just ahead of the St Joseph’s Convent Kingstown (66), the defending champions, with the Girls’ High School in third (65) and the ever-eager Thomas Secondary School (64) in fourth. Union Island Secondary Schools (59) lies in fifth position going into the finals on Wednesday of next week.
In the male division the defending champions, St Vincent Grammar School (144), currently holds a very commanding lead with a surprise package served up by the Buccament Bay Secondary School (82) carrying them to second position, ahead of the Thomas Saunders Secondary School (55), West St George Secondary School (53) and an ever improving St Martin’s Secondary School (43).
The challenge is therefore on for the bragging rights and top honours amongst the leading schools in the female division. St Joseph’s Convent is not about to readily give up its lien on the championship title especially with national athlete, Deslorn Lawrence, competing in the Senior category for the ISSAC, out front as the institution’s marquee athlete.
Pamenos Ballantyne’s coaching programme has facilitated the emergence of Shantal Williams, competing in the Intermediate category and a virtual unknown until the TASVG National Championships 2014 when she represented XCEED and stole the show amongst the female athletes in the competition. Her rise to prominence has left tongues wagging especially since she achieved a personal best of 25.89 in the 200m at the TASVG Carifta Trials on Saturday last. Her performance was the best amongst all female athletes and she will be 16 years old in December, clearly an athlete for the future. Of course she will have to contend with the up and coming Zamesha Myle of the Thomas Saunders Secondary School (TSSS) who copped top honours last year at the IPSAC and in now in the system for the ISSAC.
Kristiana Christopher, coming from a sporting family and representing the TSSS, is well poised to take on all-comers in the Junior category of the ISSAC, a fitting complement to her performances at her school’s annual sports meet earlier this year. In the male division Bethel High School’s Akani Slater, training with Michael Ollivierre, is poised to prove himself a crowning jewel having already established himself a favourite with sound performance sin the horizontal jumps, a finalist in the high jump as well as the 1500m, 800m and 400m track events on the day of the finals.
The 100m senior male final would prove very interesting and exciting with Dexroy Wilson of Central Leeward Secondary (11.25) in lane 4, Rogike Thorpe of TSSS (11.31) in lane 5, Darius Phillips of Buccament Bay Secondary School (11.34) in lane 3 and Neilo Thomas of TSSS (11.44) in lane 6.
As always the eyes of everyone will be on the TSSS as they seek to justify why they remain committed to participating in the annual Penn Relays in the USA. The school’s PE teacher and coach, Godfrey Harry, is proud of the preparation of his athletes following their successes at the annual Relay F air in Barbados earlier this year where the team qualified for Penn’s.
Other teams are apt to try to dethrone TSSS in the 4 x 400m relay to prove that they are just as or perhaps more worthy to be attending the Penn Relays.
ISSAC and Carifta Games
The annual ISSAC is often seen as the final opportunity for athletes to make the standards for the Carifta Games. This year everything has come early and the Carifta Trials came off at Arnos Vale on Saturday last.
While many athletes did well at both the ISSAC Heats and the Carifta Trials the fact is that they have been some distance away from the established standards. Complaints about the standards are a moot point when compared to the results of the Carifta Games of the past two years in particular.
While some may readily suggest making appropriate adjustments for the fact that our athletes train and compete on grass history has shown that we are significantly behind the rest of the region in terms of what is required to medal. We have had the experiences of Bermuda in 2013 and Martinique in 2014 to support this view.
Athletes do not suddenly improve their performances because they have been allowed to travel and Carifta Games is of a particularly high standard, easily the most outstanding junior championships in the sport anywhere in the world except for World Youth and World Juniors.
If we wish our athletes to benefit from exposure at the regional and international levels Carifta Games do not fit the bill. Jamaica, Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and the French Caribbean do not come to the Carifta Games to play around. They come to show that they are at the same level and that they can deliver world quality performances. It is not by accident that Jamaica walks away with an approximate 60 – 70% of the gold medals on offer at these Games.
Our coaches and athletes would have to work more diligently at meeting established standards and be offered the opportunity of exposure at different levels in the region if they are to justify selection to the higher levels of competition.
The standards at ISSAC would have to be significantly improved.
There is a new wind blowing in the sport that has seen the resurgence of the Girls High School and the St Martin’s Secondary School. The Central Leeward Secondary School has been showing considerable improvement over the past two years.
The dominance of one or two schools at the ISSAC is changing and the gap is closing.
While this is all very important there is need to stay focused on the bigger picture – Carifta and beyond.
Let us all hope that at this year’s IPSAC and ISSAC we can identify the future stars of the sport who can then be harnessed and put on a developmental programme that is not encumbered by the insularity that currently seems to exist between so many of the nation’s coaches.