Sporting storm brewing as J'can school alumni descend on South Florida
THERE'S a storm brewing in South Florida over this Labour Day weekend.
As is common in Florida at this time of the year, the impending onslaught will not come from a tropical cyclone, but a sporting deluge as the annual Jamaica High Schools Alumni Sports Network (JHSASN) tournaments take centre stage at the Lauderhill Sports Complex today and tomorrow, America's Labour Day.
In the marquee event of the Jamaican high school alumni competition, 11 former Manning and daCosta Cup champions are among 16 teams confirmed for this year's staging. Of the total, there are nine daCosta Cup and seven Manning Cup schools taking part in the two-day football fiesta.
Calabar, Camperdown, Kingston College, Wolmer's Boys' and Tivoli High are the former Manning Cup winners down to compete at the tournament with St Mary's College and Meadowbrook High completing the line-up of Corporate Area Jamaican schools.
Many-time daCosta Cup champions Cornwall College lead the rural area schools for bragging rights. They will be joined by multiple daCosta Cup winners Rusea's, Herbert Morrison, Glenmuir, Dinthill and current title holders, St Elizabeth Technical High School. The other rural area alumni are St Mary High, Ferncourt and Marcus Garvey Technical.
Herbert Morrison are the defending champions of the tournament, which is yet to crown a Manning Cup school champion.
But football is not the only thing on the menu. South Floridians and those who are expected to venture from afar can feast on another popular Jamaican high school sport, netball.
That side of the programme will be organised by former national player Nadine Ffrench, and for the first time in South Florida, fans will see several other professional Jamaican netball players. Among them is Althea Byfield, past netball player and present basketball national player. Also in action is Jodiann Ffrench, also a past Sunshine Girl.
"The South Florida event creates a positive way for past students of Jamaican high schools to come together in a reunion setting, in an attempt to relive their past exploits in a fun and entertaining, yet competitive sports arena, as well as getting an opportunity to give back to their home school in Jamaica," said JHSASN president Lavern Deer.
"The most intriguing part of the tournament is that these past students, most of whom have played in daCosta and Manning Cup tournaments, see this as an opportunity to give back to their high schools.
"Last year, for example, champions Herbert Morrison received a Certificate of Award from the school's principal, Paul Adams, on donating a cheque towards the development of the school's sports programme," Deer added.
Delano Peterkin, a member of the Herbert Morrison High expatriate group who travelled to Jamaica to make the monetary presentation to his alma mater, said giving back for him is a passion.
"We are passionate about our school, so having this opportunity to win and give back to our alma mater is priceless. In fact, we do not intend on giving up our crown. We are looking forward to a repeat and retaining the National Weekly championship trophy this year," said Peterkin.
Other alumni have contributed generously to their old schools from proceeds from the annual South Florida festival.
In 2012, Lance Gibbs, president of the Cornwall College Alumni Association, said the cash prize his group received went into helping to finance the solar project at the St James-based school.
In previous years, St Mary High and Rusea's High alumni have made noteworthy donations of sporting equipment to their schools' sports programmes.
According to Deer, who also leads the Florida-based Jamaica International Female Football Development (JIFFD), the Jamaica High School Alumni soccer and netball tournaments provide a top-class, two-day sporting event that attracts a wide cross-section of Jamaican nationals, other Caribbean-Americans and football and netball lovers nationwide.
"The event, which is held on Labour Day weekend each year, has proven to be a highly competitive and heavily supported Caribbean sporting event, and is regarded as the premier South Florida alumni sporting competition. The event benefits charitable causes, both local and international," she told the Jamaica Observer.