Sport

The day Trevor Munroe gazed at cheering beauties

...And in a flash, his chance of winning gold at Champs was gone

BY HOWARD WALKER Observer senior reporter walkerh@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, March 25, 2014    

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THE fall of the first man Adam, according to the Good Book, was attributed to the wiles of a woman named Eve.

As the story goes, or the popular interpretation of it, Eve used her feminine charms and beauty to convince Adam to eat of the forbidden fruit, going against the will of God. What took place in the Garden of Eden back then, and the immediate consequence of the transgressors thereafter, may have set a precedence that has stood the test of time.

One would have thought that man, by now, would have learnt to resist the cunning and temptation of a woman. For men, it seems a hopeless struggle.

Fifty-four years ago, one of Jamaica's most brilliant sons, Professor Trevor Munroe, allowed that masculine weakness for the fairer sex cloud his better judgement, which led to him squandering the chance at winning gold at Boys' Champs in 1960, while representing St George's College.

Munroe was a brilliant student in high school and a respected athlete — a young man known also for his ability to focus on the task at hand.

To this day, it's a haunting memory the way a group of beautiful cheering Alpha Girls students distracted him at that crucial moment when he looked well on his way to winning the Class Two 220 yards race at Champs.

I guess, like many of us — then and now — Munroe shares that eternal weakness.

Many years have passed since those Alpha Girls lured his eyes away from the track, but Munroe still rues the missed opportunity for Champs glory.

"I was coming off the curve in the 220 (yards), I was leading and out of the corner of my eyes, I saw the Alpha Girls railing up saying 'STGC', and that fleeting distraction cost me the gold medal. The guy from Calabar, I never forgot his name, McFarlane, passed me at the tape and he got the gold and I got the silver," lamented Munroe.

"And the lesson is, never be distracted, keep your focus, however pleasant the distraction. And I can tell you, it is a very pleasant distraction," he added, laughing.

He continued: "I had beaten McFarlane before in the build-up to Champs and he reversed it at Champs. But I don't blame the Alpha Girls. I blame myself."

The Champs records will show the winner as P McFarlane of Calabar in 23.1 seconds with Munroe second, ahead of Dennis Anderson of Happy Grove and Dwight Anderson of KC fourth.

In 1960, a young Munroe garnered the most points for St George's by placing second in the Class Two 220 yards, fourth in the 120 yards hurdles and he anchored the 4x110 yards relay team to third behind Kingston College and Jamaica College.

"Interestingly, I discovered a few years later that I was the first Rhodes Scholar after Norman Manley to medal for his school at Champs some 48 years after. Manley medalled for JC in 1912," Munroe said.

"That would have been my best year. But at St George's, I would have been a big fish in a small pond. I held the 220 yards Class Two record at St George's for a number of years," he told the Jamaica Observer.

That year, 1960, Excelsior High with 53 points won their first and only title defeating Jamaica College with 38 and KC with 33. It was also a significant year in which the Class Three 6x110-yard relay was contested for the last time.

St George's had only won Champs twice in 1914 and 1925, the same year their North Street rivals Kingston College was established. That same year, was the first year competing schools were given money by the

then ruling Jamaica Schools Championship Sports Committee to offset their training.

That year, the 'Light Blues' were led by one Cecil Knight who was the father of Louis Knight, who starred for STGC in the early 1950s.

Louis Knight, who became the first to win the Class One 120 yards hurdles three times, was the first cousin of Trevor Munroe. In 1953, Louis Knight set the 220 yards record of 21.8 seconds which stood for 15 years, until one Donald Quarrie of Camperdown High broke it in 1968.

His cousin, now Dr Louis Knight, a dental surgeon, was Munroe's role model and source of motivation.

"As a role model, he had a great impact on me, because he was a champion athlete, but also outstanding in his academics and won a track scholarship to Manhattan College in the US, and thereafter became a dental surgeon," Munroe said.

"If I didn't have that kind of person in the family who was doing all of that stuff, I don't think I would have been motivated to do so many years on the track at St George's College," added the political scientist and labour activist.

Despite the glamour of being a track star at school, Munroe was always keen on his books, and both rolled into one helped him into the heady heights of academic journey.

"In 1959, I did the equivalent of CXC at the time. I was around 15 and I got 10 ones and one two. I made sure I did my academics the same time as working hard on the track. I came first in the school in academics and in the top five in Jamaica.

"I was the valedictorian, president of the debating society, which won the all island debating championship the same year 1960, and a member of the student council.

"I felt it was very, very important (to) work hard on the track, but also balance it with other aspects of student life," was Munroe's philosophy then and today the advice for young student athletes.

Like so many Jamaican track and field athletes, Munroe came under the tutelage of the legendary Herb McKenley as coach of St George's College for a spell.

"That is an experience of a lifetime... 'Herb Mac' as your coach. What I recalled about Herb is that he worked you hard to your limit," he recalled.

Munroe, who went to the University of the West Indies and later won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University where he obtained his doctorate in political science, still has fond memories of Champs.

"It was a premier achievement. It was the aspiration of every athlete to represent their school at Champs, and more importantly, to medal, and even more importantly, to get most points for his school. So I felt very elated by that achievement," he said.

Although he is not sure if he will be attending this year's edition of Champs, Munroe, who admits to still being an avid fan, is dreaming of the day when his alma mater can end their 89-year winless drought at the annual schools championship.

" [I'm] Very hopeful that St George's will sooner than later or get back in the top three. It's difficult now with two hundred and odd schools, but possible with focus and support [from] family and the old boys," Munroe noted.

Professor Trevor Munroe — man for all seasons

*Professor Munroe is the author and co-author of eight books, primarily on issues of Caribbean democratic governance. His 1972 book on Jamaican politics remains the authoritative work on Jamaica's transition to Independence.

*He has written extensively on issues of corruption and governance, including authoring Transparency International's National Integrity System country studies of Jamaica and the Caribbean.

*Professor Munroe served as consultant to the World Bank, Organisation of American States, the Carter Center, the United Nations Development Programme, Transparency International, USAID, and the UK's Department for International Development (DFID).

*Founder of the University and Workers Allied Union and the Workers Party of Jamaica (WPJ). He was a government Senator under the People's National Party (PNP) between 1998-2007.

*He is currently the executive director of the National Integrity Action. In 2012, Professor Munroe was appointed an individual member of Transparency International, the only such person from the Caribbean and among 30 in the world.

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