One of the more comprehensive three-day meets on the local track and field calendar is set for this weekend at the original Thomas A. Robinson Track and Field Stadium.
The Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) Age Group Trials and Kids Athletics Championships will be held Thursday to Saturday, June 1-3, at the stadium, with the age group trials being contested on Thursday and Friday, and the Kids Athletics Championships being held on Friday and Saturday. The meet will get underway at 5 p.m. on Thursday, 12:30 p.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. Saturday.
The age group trials will determine the eight athletes who will represent The Bahamas at the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC) Age Group Under-13 (U13) and Under-15 (U15 Championships, set for July 15-16 in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic.
The top two finishers in the four divisions at the age group trials, under-13 and under-15 boys and girls, will be selected for the national team traveling to the Dominican Republic this summer. The Kids Athletics Championships will crown national champions in all of the youth divisions in local track and field.
The meet is open to clubs and schools and scores of young athletes are expected to take part.
“The BAAA is proud of this event. It is a part of the germination of our program, and this event represents the sprouting of new plants. We would have produced some of our best athletes out of this program and it doesn’t escape us as to why our program is probably the best in the world per capita. This is a program that we put a lot of emphasis on,” said BAAA President Drumeco Archer on Wednesday.
The Bahamas has been a regular participator in the regional age group championships ever since its inception in 1985. Many track and field stars from The Bahamas got their start in the sport at the Kids Athletics level, and have participated in the age group trials and championships.
“Kids Athletics is the engine that keeps track and field rolling in this country, and I’m always excited about this program,” said Archer. “Whenever you think that the program is about to drop on its head, we have the emergence of new athletes, and that is what makes me excited. While we look at the Shaunae Millers and the Steven Gardiners as the pinnacle of success, it is our hope that our future athletes will surpass that and become global leaders as well.”
NACAC President Mike Sands said: “Kids Athletics is the world’s largest grassroots program and it is an introduction to the sport of track and field. World Athletics, and by extension, NACAC encourages it. There are over 200 member federations with over 13 million young people who participate in the Kids Athletics aspect of track and field. It is the foundation to the success of any program in track and field. This is designed to inspire the next generation of athletes to continue on to the bigger stages of track and field. NACAC lends its full support to these championships.”
For the age group trials, participants in the under-13 category will contest a two-day pentathlon, with the girts taking part in the 60 meters (m), high jump, long jump, ball throw and 800m, and the boys competing in the 60m, high jump, long jump, ball throw and 1,000m. Athletes in the under-15 category will contest a two-day heptathlon, with the girts taking part in the 60m hurdles, 80m, high jump, long jump, ball throw, shot put and 1,000m. The boys will compete in the 80m hurdles, 80m, high jump, long jump, ball throw, shot put and 1,200m.
The Kids Athletics Championships will commence at the conclusion of the age group trials.
“We have to recognize our specialty coaches such as Sherry Francis and Nekeno Demeritte who have really driven the program to the success that we have seen in more recent times,” said Archer. “We recognize that there aren’t enough meets at the age group level and we wanted to create a championship event for the young athletes to give them more focus. Parents come to track meets to watch their kids perform. This is the one opportunity where you have the fullest engagement of the track and field community. This is an important event for us. It is a showcase for one of the assets of the federation and we hope to grow this area for our sport.”
Sands encourages the entire family to come out and support the young athletes. There will be competitors from all over The Bahamas competing this weekend.
“The Bahamas is one of the top ranking age group federations in the system,” said Sands. “I congratulate the BAAA for continuing this program and I also have to mention some of the coaches in the system because it takes a special breed to manage such a collection of kids. Sherry Francis, Nekeno Demeritte, Dexter Bodie and then you have to look at what clubs like Star Trackers and Red-Line Athletics are doing. You have to really have a passion for this to do this and so we cannot underestimate the amount of effort that they put into the program that keeps it going and make it a success.”
There will be medals for the top three finishers in each event and trophies for team division winners. Admission for the event is at $5 for children, $10 for adults and $15 for the VIP section. There will be three-day passes available at $12 for children, $28 for adults and $40 for the VIP section.