Tears rain as Calabar celebrate another 'Champs' victory
"EVER so powerful, ever so strong" was the tag line that constantly reverberated throughout Calabar High's emotional Monday morning devotion as the school celebrated yet another ISSA GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls' Athletics Championships victory.
Reverend Carl Johnson, chairman of the school board, revved up the large gathering at 8:00 am, and the students responded with thunder from their tambourines and vuvuzelas - the latter being a plastic horn of approximately two feet that was made popular during the South Africa 2010 FIFA World Cup.
"Ever so powerful, ever so strong. One, two, three, C'bar. Three, two, one, Yow," said Reverend Johnson, as his every word was echoed by the majority of the 1,700 students, teachers and auxiliary workers at the school.
And like a hive of angry bees, the vuvuzelas took the decibel level to a maddening crescendo.
These celebrations are becoming the norm as Calabar rattled up their third consecutive win at 'Champs' and their 24th overall with a most convincing victory margin of 96.5 points.
The green-and-black-clad boys from 61 Red Hills Road raced to 305 points to easily dispatch of fierce rivals Kingston College (208.5) and Jamaica College on 180 points. It was the largest margin of victory for years.
Yesterday, the crowd swelled in their frenzied jostle to get a glimpse of local track and field's most precious prize, the Mortimer Geddes trophy.
And like a beacon of the success it represents, it stands imposingly on an outdoor stage draped in the school's dominant colour of green.
Principal Albert Corcho got in on the act and acknowledged the school's sponsors, while applauding his students for their good behaviour throughout the five-day championships.
"I am glad the media are here. We want to send a very strong message to all the other schools that participated at Champs that the Mortimer Geddes trophy will live at 61 Red Hills Road," he said, as the school erupted into cheers.
"It doesn't matter where athletes are imported from, one thing I can tell you is that the programme is the best programme in this side of the hemisphere," Corcho continued.
He then welcomed members of the winning team on stage, and like the Biblical son Moses did with the Red Sea, Corcho pointed his hand and the crowd parted for the athletes to make the crossing to the stage.
Team captain Romario McKenzie, wearing his Batman mask made famous by his far more illustrious brother, Ramone McKenzie, introduced the 'Calabar Lions' individually and outlined each one's heroics.
"'Bar' life is the only life worth living," said McKenzie, as the students erupted once again.
"It was a rough championship. After the first two days without a point, my phone kept ringing because persons wanted to know what was happening. The team was worried, I was worried, but as a leader you can't show signs of weakness, so I kept them motivated," said McKenzie.
But we came out day by day, blood, sweat, tears, but at the end of the day, I told them it wouldn't be our tears, it would be theirs," he said.
"At the end of the day if you put God first, you can't be last. People look at us as just athletes... no, we have to balance school as well. Student comes before athlete. There are days we are in class falling asleep and we still have to get the work done," he added.
McKenzie then handed over the microphone to Michael O'Hara and endorsed him as the school's next captain with a hug. Then things got emotional. O'Hara couldn't hold back the tears.
"Morning, Calabar," O'Hara greeted the crowd to deafening cheers. "Thanks to my supporters for coming out and supporting me even though I didn't do my best. But I am still here and coming next year harder than before to take home the championship," said the 2013 overall champion boy.
McKenzie then spoke of the courage displayed by his "real warriors" under fire. He noted that Class One discus champion Basil Bingham won with a fractured finger and Seanie Selvie, whom he said ran on one leg.
"Chevanne Hamilton, we call him Michael Phelps because he is always dropping or diving to the line. Tyreke Wilson, legends are made at Calabar. Christopher Taylor, wonder boy. Javier Love won the triple jump and he only started training January because of injury," McKenzie revealed.
McKenzie went on and on, but seemingly saving the best for last. He then introduced Javon 'Donkey Man' Francis, a future Olympian, all things being equal.
And like O'Hara, Francis, too -- his final year at Champs -- could not hold back the tears.
Francis smashed Usain Bolt's 400m record of 45.35 seconds and lowered it to 45 seconds, but sustained a minor injury while competing in the 200m.
The Mortimer Geddes trophy was then presented to the team captain and his "soldiers" as they jumped and pranced before going into their team song.
Meanwhile, team manager Angela Hardware congratulated the boys on their victory and pointed out that the school and herself are the envy of every other school and parents.
"I am the proud manager of this track team. I am the proud guardian of Javon Francis and I am the proud grandmother of Dejour Russell," she said.
The powerfully built Russell, who won the Class Three 100m hurdles and placed second in both 100m and long jump events, won the champion boy award with 23 individual points. He was also a part of the winning 4x100m relay quartet.
The devotion ended with the singing of the school's song before the boys dispersed to their classrooms in an orderly manner. Thereafter, members of the team assembled in the auditorium for the school's official team photo with the trophy.
After little over an hour, the devotion ended and it was back to the classroom. But no doubt, the celebrations at 61 Red Hills Road will go on for days to come.