AFTER their sizzling display at last week's 102nd ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls' Athletics Championships at the National Stadium, Jamaica's young track and field athletes will bow into action at the 41st edition of the Carifta Games in Bermuda today.
A 69-member team left the island on Thursday for the low-lying islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, fully cognisant of the fact that the last time the Games were held there, eight years ago, they saw one Mr Usain Bolt, then only 18 years old, set tongues wagging with a sensational world junior record of 19.93 seconds for his pet 200-metres event.
We would be ecstatic if similar exploits were to be repeated by our exceptional athletes over the next three days -- but we have our doubts. Not that the genius of Mr Bolt is absent from any of these athletes, or because of the cold temperatures expected at this time of year, but moreso because of fatigue we anticipate from a number of our athletes following last week's gruelling four-day competition.
Indeed, this team has no fewer than 18 defending champions from last year's team that won 66 medals here in Jamaica, at the Montego Bay Sports Complex, and boasts IAAF World Youth Championships and World Junior Championships medallists.
Some of these athletes would have been recovering from slight strains and pulls and therefore would probably need more time to regain optimum fitness, and more precisely, sharpness; while others, such as the outstanding Miss Chris-Ann Gordon of Holmwood Technical High School, had to be withdrawn due to injury.
Jamaica's dominance at this meet is unquestioned, as the country seeks its 28th overall title, and so it is perhaps time for the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) to make its Boys' and Girls' Champs schedule more athlete friendly with regional and/or global schedules.
Another week between meets, at minimum, could make significant differences to the young athletes winning and losing, breaking records or not.
We take this opportunity to welcome Nigerian-born Mr Emmanuel Onyia, a student of Munro College, who successfully applied for Jamaican citizenship and has been included in the team.
We must also extend commendation to last week's Championships winners -- Edwin Allen High School from Frankfield in Clarendon, who were registering their first triumph at the Girls' Champs; and Calabar High School, who made all their alumni proud in this their centenary year.
Edwin Allen have persevered after playing second fiddle to Holmwood Technical on a number of occasions over the past few years, as Holmwood won nine straight Championships.
On the last two occasions, Edwin Allen were seen as firm favourites only to falter when it mattered most on the four days of Championships. Last week, they made no mistake and scored a comprehensive triumph by well over 100 points.
On the other hand, Calabar boys used the negative issue of rodent infestation, which forced the closure of their school for a few days, to spur them on to success for their 22nd Champs crown and, days before that, their fifth Schools' Challenge lien.
If ever there was an example of turning negatives into positives, then Calabar executed it magnificently.