Defending champions Calabar High School and Edwin Allen High School claim they are stronger and better than last year's team that romped to wins at the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls' Athletics Championships.
On the eve of the start of the expanded 103rd staging of the world's largest high school track and field championships yesterday, both champions dared the field to "catch" them if it can.
A massive 225 schools, 11 more than last year's 214 schools will take part in the championships — 113 boys and 112 girls — that will get underway today at 2:20 pm with the preliminaries of the boys' open javelin throw, as well as the boys' Class One long jump and girl's Class One high jump.
Unlike last year when only the preliminaries of the steeplechase races were held to take the pressure off the athletes, this year's meet will be four and half days long.
No finals will be decided today, but the contenders will start their maneuvering from the very first day, as they seek to start the points accumulation when the first set of six finals are contested on tomorrow's second day.
Calabar won their 22nd title and first since 2008 after accumulating 287.5 points, 22.5 more than Kingston College, whose most recent title came in 2009 with 2011 winners Jamaica College in third place with 221.5 points.
After years of disappointment and heart break, Edwin Allen finally came good last year, winning their first ever title, amassing 346 points going away from nine-time champions Holmwood Technical (222), while St Jago were third with 173 points.
If that domination was not scary enough, Edwin Allen's Michael Dyke says this year's team is better. "This is a complete team, one of our best ever with balance everywhere."
Unlike the previous years when he was chasing the title holders, the shoe is on the other foot now, but Dyke says the approach will not be any different. "We are not pressured, everyone is healthy and we have no injury concerns, but we can't be complacent, the girls know they have to be focused and deliver."
After losing the title by a mere six points in 2011 after they were tipped to win by as many as 30 points, Dyke knows what it takes to be careful and not take anything for granted.
Maurice Wilson, who built a dynasty at Holmwood, winning for nine straight years before losing last year, says he is not going into Champs thinking about anything but regaining their place at the top of the heap.
While admitting that his Class Three and Four were not as strong as he would have liked it to be, Wilson told the Jamaica Observer he was expecting to accumulate points in Class One, Two, and the open events.
Despite his unlikely win in 2011, Wilson said the teams of the last two years have not had the "Holmwood character".
The fire to fight for every last point, he said, was missing from the last two teams. "Only people who do not understand Championships will say we don't have a chance of winning.
"Champs brings out the best in everyone and we are known to lift our game," he said. And showing a lot of respect to Edwin Allen, Wilson said he is not expecting them to slip up to give him any opening.
"We always have to create our own opportunities, no team has ever given us any favours over the years. The battle now is mainly psychological."
Omar Hawes, who spoke on behalf of Calabar's coaching staff, said he wasn't expecting a close race as they had prepared extensively and have an improved Class Three team.
"We have prepared for every eventuality," he said. "As we know Champs comes down to the best preparations and best managers of assets."
The word from Kingston College, too, is that they have done all their homework and according to head coach Michael Russell, "we have a live chance to win Champs".
According to Russell, they will be competitive in the throwing events, which Calabar have dominated the last few years. "Once we can maximise our efforts in the throws, we know we can make up that gap and cut the deficit."
Despite losing one of their Class Three high jumpers, who broke his leg in training recently, Russell said "we have put in place some improvements and plugged some areas".
Russell said the closeness of Champs would not depend on the top teams, but the spread of talent all over the island where other schools will take away points from the main contenders.