Student athletes who sat PEP share winning formula

Observer staff reporter

Thursday, July 18, 2019

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BALANCING sports and academics has been a virtual tug-of-war for a number of Jamaica's young athletes, but the robust performance of student athletes from St Richard's Primary in the recent Primary Exit Profile (PEP) assessment is proof that it can be done.

PEP results, which were released last month, showed that the students — all of whom participated in at least two sports throughout the academic year — secured places at traditional high schools.

In fact, St Richard's Primary was the team that captured the title for Eastern Regional Zone One at the 39th staging of the Institute of Sports Primary Schools Track and Field Championships, with a combined score of 167 points at National Stadium East in May.

The team also secured nine gold and five silver medals at the Miami Classics Track and Field Meet recently.

The school also finished third in a female football competition for primary schools.

When the Jamaica Observer visited the Red Hills Road institution last month, some of the students who were enjoying the fruits of their labour while they awaited graduation shared their formulas for success.

Somaya Brown's track and field journey started when she was grade two. However, it wasn't easy as two years later, the now 12-year-old was diagnosed with Osgood–Schlatter disease (OSD).

According to Mayo Clinic, OSD can cause a painful, bony bump on the shinbone just below the knee. It usually occurs in children and adolescents experiencing growth spurts during puberty.

Osgood-Schlatter disease, Mayo Clinic said, occurs most often in children who participate in sports that involve running, jumping and swift changes of direction — such as soccer, basketball, figure skating and ballet.

Noting that she was unable to train for two months, Somaya said she returned to track and field when she was in grade five.

“I realised that the disease started to go away and then when I came to the summer training, I started to improve on my speed. In grade six I started taking my training more seriously because I made up my mind that this year is the year that I am to shine,” said Somaya, who is looking forward to starting her journey at Immaculate Conception High School in St Andrew in September.

“I went to the primary school champs and I won the sprint double — the 100m and the 200m — with the fastest times. I also won the sprint double at the parish level with the fastest time. I came second in the 200m and first in the 100m with the fastest time at Miami Classics,” she told the Observer.

Elated that she was successful in PEP and placed at the school that was her first choice, Somaya said time management was key to her success.

“During the week I would normally have extra lessons and then I would go to track and field training after. Due to the fact that the Government implement Primary Exit Profile, I would go to night classes on Mondays and Tuesdays. I would attend training on Wednesday, Thursday and Fridays to balance my academics and track and field,” Brown said, before playing a game of netball.

Viantia Collins, who is above average height for her age, also contributed to the institution's track and field victory.

“I did the long jump and the girl's medley relay,” Collins said.

The 12-year-old, who secured a place at The Queen's School, said: “On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I did extra lessons and night classes. On Thursday and Friday I would go to netball training first and then track and field.

“It has to be even for me to do well in academics and athletics, and not to stress about the two. Students doing PEP next year just need to do their best, focus and balance their time,” she added.

Like Somaya and Viantia, Luis Castriota has done well on and off the track.

Luis, who is small in stature, said his timetable was of crucial importance to his success.

Pointing out that he loves football and track and field, he said travelling across the island and competing as a member of a team are what he loves most about participating in sports. He will be attending Meadowbrook High School in September.

Grace-Ann Hermitt and Omaria Stephenson, who both participated in track and field for the school, secured spots at Ardenne High and St Hugh's High, respectively, while Akeem Kerr and Mose Poletta will be attending Meadowbrook High and Jamaica College, respectively, in September.

According to physical education teacher and coach Byron McLeod, the fact that PEP was scheduled for April made it extremely challenging for the students to balance both.

“Normally GSAT (Grade Six Achievement Test) would finish in March, and we would have one month and two weeks to prepare before primary [school] champs, but this year it was the opposite. We had about two weeks before champs started so it was a little bit rough, but as a result of proper planning and support from the parents, hard work paid off,” McLeod said.

“We had to wait on them, sometimes they came out five o'clock, and we had to wait on them,” McLeod said, adding that some days they only managed to train for one hour.

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