BY PAUL A REID Observer West Writer firstname.lastname@example.org MONTEGO BAY, St James
A number of western- based high school track and field coaches believe that schools in the western region will perform above expectations and could decide who wins the titles at the 103rd ISSA/GraceKennedy National Boys and Girls Championships that starts on Tuesday at the National Stadium.
A similar number of 19 girls' schools and 27 boys' schools from western Jamaica that participated in last year's staging of the premier high schools track and field champions are expected to participate in this year's renewal, which will run five days until Saturday.
Just seven girls' schools and five boys' schools scored points last year, but the coaches are expecting the western athletes to rise to the occasion this year, and surpass last year when Edwin Allen won their first girls' title, finally beating Holmwood Technical, while Calabar High won their 22nd title.
Neil Harrison of Hanover Co-operative Credit Union Boys Western Champions Munro College and his St Elizabeth Technical (STETHS) counterpart Milton Brown stressed in an interview with the Observer West this week that the titles at Champs could be determined by the performances of the western- based athletes.
"Definitely the western teams will help to determine who wins Champs this year," Harrison said, "western athletes will take unexpected points here and there from schools vying for the title."
Brown who correctly predicted 105 points for his STETHS Girls last year, said he expects the western schools to do better than last year.
"After Western Champs and CARIFTA Trials, it is obvious that the talent level in the west has risen a couple of notches and more points will be heading to the west this year," he argued.
Herbert Morrison's Claude Grant and Michael McIntosh of Green Island both agreed with Harrison and Brown's assessment.
Grant who has produced an assembly line of outstanding sprinters including two -time IAAF World Junior 100m champion and IAAF World Youth Champion Dexter Lee, predicts that the western schools could dominate the boys' sprints especially in Class 1.
Four western- based athletes were in the Class 1 boys 100m finals last year, which Munro College's Delano Williams will start favourites to retain next week, and both Harrison and Grant are expecting at least that number this year.
Harrison thinks Herbert Morrison's Gawain Williams could be a dark horse to make the finals in his first year in Class 1, in addition to his own Delano Williams and Green Island's Odail Todd, who missed Champs with a leg injury last year.
"No doubt Todd will be a factor here and although Delano beat him at Western Champs, that is in the past and he will have to do it again at Champs."
McIntosh told the Observer West "the western athletes will show their mettle and character and show the sport is on the rise here."
According to Brown, the points could come from all over, including the field events where he expects Petersfield and Munro College as well as Cornwall College's Warren Barrett in Class 2, to make an impact.
He said while most of the western schools may not vie for top five places, there are individual athletes who will make a difference, including Lacovia's Class 2 800m runner Paul Tate, Rusea's high middle distance runner Stephanie Barrett and Petersfield Asaine Hall.
STETHS were sixth overall in the girls points last year with 105 points, followed by Herbert Morrison in 10th place with 60 points, Petersfield in 21st place with 13, Grange Hill in 25th place with five points; Balaclava and Mannings in 31st with two points and Newel in 33rd with one points.
Munro was the best western boys school with 94 points in fifth place, followed by STETHS in sixth place with 87 points; Petersfield was 10th with 29 points followed by Herbert Morrison in 15th place with 16 points and Cornwall College in 23rd place with eight points.