The C.H. Reeves Raptors and the C.R. Walker Knights will be out in full force to defend their junior and senior athletic titles respectively, when the 27th Government Secondary Schools Sports Association (GSSSA) Track and Field Championships are held from February 26-28 at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.
Both of the defending champions are confident that they will retain their titles.
The Knights will be looking for their fifth straight title, and according to Principal T. Nicole McKay, they are extremely confident.
“We are going to be there and we are coming to win again – C.R. Walker Knights,” McKay said. “C.R. Walker has been able to maintain this kind of winning record over the years because we have been able to attract quality students not just for academics but for athletics as well. It really comes about through hard work, perseverance and determination of the coaches and the athletes.”
She added that they will be without former Head Coach Ednal Rolle this year, who took up the head coaching position at the University of The Bahamas (UB), but they are still looking to successfully defend their title. Rolle led them to four straight senior titles.
Tia Rolle and Akia Rose will lead the Knights’ coaching staff this year.
McKay said they have been working with the student-athletes year-round. She added that the athletes are inspired to win another title.
Last year, the Knights led all three days during the competition, finishing with a total of 654.50 points. Their closest competitor was the C.I. Gibson Knights, who finished with 550 points. The C.V. Bethel Stingrays were third with 391.50 points.
In the junior division last year, the Raptors regained the title with a score of 508 points after losing the title the year before to the A.F. Adderley Tigers. Before that, the Raptors had won 10 straight.
Finishing second to them last year were the Tigers with 440.50 points, and finishing third were the H.O. Nash Lions with 309 points.
Raptors Head of the Physical Education Department Varel Davis said their athletes and coaches are confident of winning a second straight title.
“I think that these children have in their minds that we are winners so I think they are going to go out there to perform at their best,” Davis said. “We started doing the things in our practices to try get them prepared for competition. We know that we are not going to just come out flat.”
Davis is aware that they have a target on their backs but was adamant that they are ready.
“We know that A.F. Adderley and also H.O. Nash and the other schools are going to try to dethrone us. We are prepared and ready to go. We have a heart of a champion. It is going to be an exciting meet. We are ready.”
The Raptors have been training from November and some of their athletes have gotten their feet wet with the cross country season late last year, and by taking part in different track meets on the weekends.
Coaching the Raptors will be Rashad McKenzie, Thurman Johnson, Sydline Justilien and Davis.
Event Schedule Director Fitz Grant said the junior schools will have a change in the age category where they will eliminate the under-13 and under-15 divisions, reverting to under-14 and under-16.
“We would have left out a number of athletes because of the age disparity,” Grant said. “This was done in an effort by the coaches and principals from the junior high schools to get more people to participate. As a result, we will have a bigger pool to choose from to compete. We expect very good competition from the junior high schools.”
Grant added that he is looking forward to seeing some of the athletes qualify for the CARIFTA Games and to make other national teams.
One of the areas that organizers of the meet are focusing on is security of the athletes and the spectators. Ministry of Education Security Division Director Christopher Smith said they will ensure the safety of all at the event.
“We know that there are going to be a lot of students and a lot of activities and security will be an active part of what is going to be happening during the event. There will be three levels of security that will be out here to make sure that the event is very safe and more importantly everyone has fun. The police are also going to be involved,” Smith said.
The first day will be exciting as all four divisions will be in action in the 100, 400 and the 4×100 meters (m) preliminaries and finals. There will also be action on the field in all four divisions with high jump, triple jump and discus events going on.
The junior high schools will come and support their athletes on Thursday, February 27, and the senior high schools are expected to come out and support their athletes on Friday, February 28.
The junior high schools will end their portion of the competition that Thursday. Only the senior high schools will compete that Friday.
The theme for this year’s meet is: “One team, one vision igniting athletic success.” Scores of junior and senior athletes are expected to take part.