What will the Schools Athletics 2018 bring to the fore?

We are into the second term of the academic year, 2017/8. This is the term in which schools focus more on their athletics competitions than any other sport, if only because it generates the greatest amount of interest and excitement in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Each year we expect to see the emergence of new athletes with talent vying for a place in the annals of their respective schools as well those of the nation. They are all anxious to
Coaches and physical education teachers strive to showcase the work they have done in preparing their respective athletes for the competitions in which they are engaged during the season.
Individual school sports
There were some schools that held their annual school athletics championships in the first term of the current academic year. Even though this was the actual period during which the athletes should have been engaged in pre-season competition, it was seen as an appropriate strategy by some schools as a most opportune time to do so.
There are of course advantages and disadvantages in having done so.
One disadvantage is that the athletes would not have been at a level of preparation to give of their best in terms of performances in athletics competition in the first term. Many students do not engage in systematic training during the long vacation, July through to early September.
Engaging in serious athletics competition in the first term therefore would mean for most athletes that they were under-prepared for delivering quality performances.
On the other hand, those schools that held their competitions in the first term, could have identified their track and field team for the annual inter schools’ athletics championships from performances at their own competitions and then begin a programme of systematic training aimed at building the base for enhanced performances at the annual inter schools’ competitions.
The fact of the matter may well be however that the schools that organised their individual track and field competitions in the first term were also anxious to minimise the impact of trying to fit in the event in the second term when they would probably have wanted more time to engage in other activities in what is obviously a packed second term.
For the majority of schools in the nation, however, the second term, currently in progress, is the period during which they host their individual track and field championships and identify their best performers for the inter school’s event that occurs prior to the Easter vacation.
Teachers and parents often look forward to the fanfare and excitement that these individual competitions.
It is unfortunate that at the secondary schools’ level, there continues to be much by way of fall-out amongst participants in the track and field competitions. This is especially true amongst girls.
Research has shown that the decline in female participation in sports at schools have more to do with the onset of early puberty and early engagement in sexual activity. Perhaps here in St Vincent and the Grenadines we have come to take so much for granted that we are hesitant to address the statistics regarding the early engagement by girls and boys in sexual activity and the increasing array of older sexual predators that are only too eager to despoil the nation’s children. We are in a Vincentian society today where the chemicals in so many foods yield young girls looking so physically developed at an earlier age that they are considered appropriate for active sex life styles.
Many young girls, caught up with the heady advertising that promotes sexual appeal as well as ever-more attractive technological advances such as cell phones and a long list of material possessions, find themselves easily dissuaded from engaging in physical education and sport.
They are often rendered fearful that engaging in sport would despoil their bodies and less attractive to their male counterparts.
It is common to find that for an increasing number of schools in the nation, girls are more interested in being spectators at their own school sports rather than active participants, trying to help their respective Houses earn bragging rights and respectability.
Many principals and teachers have already given up the struggle to get more of their students involved in their own school sports; a most unfortunate state of affairs.
Inter schools’ competition
For some schools therefore, the boys are the ones they rely on to establish their teams for the annual inter schools’ track and field competitions.
Over the past few years the St Vincent Grammar School, under the coaching of Rawlson Morgan, for the most part, has dominated the track and field competition at the annual Inter Secondary Schools Athletics Championships.
While it is true that Grammar Schools has a larger pool of students from which to draw, the reality is that the requisite work has been done enough to produce an annual contingent that is sufficiently well prepared for the annual competition. This is not to say that there is any shortage of challenges faced in getting the talented athletes to engage in the requisite training, especially in the pre-competition phase, September through to December.
Being undefeated in five consecutive years is a major achievement now that there are so many schools involved in the annual competition.
This year’s Grammar School team would again be the one to throw down the gauntlet amongst the boys’ athletics competition.
Javon Rawlins has the potential to become an outstanding Vincentian athlete in the multi-sport event. He would however require much more discipline in respect of consistency of adhering to the training regimen and focus on developing and maintaining a happy balance between academics and athletics. He should be encouraged to work consistently on both areas. He could easily earn a scholarship and benefit from advanced training that would take him on the world stage of elite athletics.
The Central Leeward Secondary Schools, popularly known as the Barrouallie Secondary School, has been the most aggressive track and field institution over the past three years amongst the secondary schools in this country.
Led by the Technical Director of Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines, Chester Morgan, who is also the school’s physical education teacher, the school has systematically developed its resources to bring the athletes and the community together to field an annual contingent for the inter schools championships that poses a major challenge to all others.
In 2017 the Central Leeward Secondary School defeated the rest of the school teams in the female category by one of the largest margins of all time.
Ulanda Lewis proved the star athlete of the entire Inter Secondary Schools Athletics Championships (ISSAC) in 2017, just as she had done in the annual Inter Primary Schools Athletics Championships (IPSAC) one year earlier while attending primary school under the then coach, Santa Cruickshank.
Lewis’s performances in all events reflected an athlete of immense potential. Already for 2017, now 13 years old, in her first 100m at a TASVG Development Meet on 13 January 2018 yielded an amazingly comfortable 12.67, fastest amongst all female athletes at the event regardless of age.
Zita Vincent, the country’s leading female student distance athlete continues to impress and would be very difficult to overcome in the 800, 1500m and 3000m events.
The Central Leeward Secondary School has an array of female athletes as well as male athletes, determined to create history at the ISSAC in 2018.
The St Martin Secondary School, whose athletes are under the coaching of Pamenos Ballantyne, has consistently produced some very impressive distance athletes and has controlled some of the distance relays in the past.
In the past two years Ballantyne has been able to produce some sprinters who have made their mark in the annual ISSSAC. The school could improve on its past performances this year.
Romar Stapleton of the Bishop’s College Kingstown, trained by coach Garth De Shong, the recipient of a scholarship in preparation for the Youth Olympic Games along with Zita Vincent of the Central Leeward Secondary School, would he very hard to beat in this year’s competition.
Thomas Saunders Secondary School, Bethel High School, Girls’ High School and St Joseph’s Convent Kingstown, Petit Bordel, Bequia and Union Island should be amongst the major challengers to the defending champions at the ISSAC in 2018.
In the IPSAC, the Kingstown Preparatory School would again be a strong contender to repeat championship honours. However, DuBois would again provide a major challenge as also would the Layou Government, the Canouan and Union Island schools and the Lodge Village Government.
Over the past three and a half months TASVG has had the services of Grenadian Throws Coach, Paul Phillip. His introduction of the throwing events – Shot, Discus and Javelin, would allow for a significant improvement in the preparation and performances of students competing in the Shot and Discus this year at the ISSAC.
TASVG has already delivered new equipment for the throwing events to communities in Sandy Bay, Layou/Barrouallie, Georgetown and Bequia, at a total value of $50,000 USD. Four more communities are due to receive similar stocks in the coming years. This has come from the Athletes Olympic Dividend (AOD) fund, created by president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), Sebastian Coe.
Local athletes interested in the throws would be better prepared and capable of better performances at the annual Windward Islands Schools Games, going forward.
The hope is that with improved and committed training the athletes involved in this year’s IPSAC and ISSAC would continue the trend of enhanced performances, establishing new records and raising the bar on the overall standard of the competitions.
TASVG has also significantly improved its Meet Management and photo finish systems and has invested in new technology for electronic timing of distance races that outs an end to the confusion that has so often threated to spoil the 3000m, 5000m and Cross Country races in the ISSAC.
With an increasing number of athletes participating in the weekly TASVG Development Meets, we are already witnessing some impressive performances that are the result of a systematic training programme.
Thanks to the efforts of the nation’s physical education teachers and coaches around the country, the stage is set for an exciting year on the track at the annual IPSAC and ISSAC.