Sport

JTA/Sagicor National Athletics Championships under way this weekend

Thursday, May 24, 2018

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Some 1,000 junior athletes from across all 14 parishes will take over the National Stadium this weekend as they compete for their respective parishes in the 35th staging of the JTA/Sagicor National Athletic Championships.

With the coveted title of parish champions up for grabs, the teams are in preparation mode as they get ready for the two-day meet, starting Friday. Individual prizes, including champion boy and girl, will be given.

Portland

With three parish championship titles to his name since 2007, coach and parish co-ordinator of the Portland team, Herman Reid, says he is proud to be part of a team that is helping to shape the lives of some of Jamaica's future track and field stars.

“It is a dream come true for most of them to just be able to run at the National Stadium. It is a great feeling to know that, as a past athlete, I can give back to these young athletes, and help to elevate their talent,” Reid shared.

Under Reid's 11-year tenure, the Portland team has consistently placed in the top five. With his 90-member squad of young athletes, Reid said winning is always the objective, but it is also important for him that his team has fun and that athletes get the opportunity to showcase their talent.

He noted, however, that his team is quite young, with more than half the athletes have never competed at the National Stadium. However with his consistent training routine — three days a week — Reid is confident in his team's abilities.

“Our strong events are the 1200m, 800m and 400m, but I am expecting great things from Kartia Burke, 12, last year's gold medallist in the open girls shot put, and our Under-13 champion girl in the sprint double (100m and 200m) from last year Chevauna Grant, 12,” Reid said with enthusiasm. He also noted that Grant has represented Jamaica on two occasions at the Caribbean Union of Teachers Games, which is held every two years.

St Andrew

The 18-time parish champions, since the inception of the JTA/Sagicor meet, St Andrew are looking for a comeback this year after finishing second behind St Catherine last time around.

Coach and parish co-ordinator, Mabracq Harris, while noting that St Catherine are his main competition, said he remains hopeful and optimistic that the team can take home its 19th title. St Andrew last won the championships in 2016, with St Catherine finishing in second place.

“The team is ready and raring to go though we have a few injury concerns. Come the final day of the meet we are hoping to be named parish champions,” Harris said.

With an 85-member team, Harris, who has been the coach of the St Andrew for the past five years, noted that he is expecting to amass “a lot” of points from the under-11 and under-15 events. He pointed out Kyle Bodden and Tajay Shaw, both 10 years old, as ones to watch for at the meet. Bodden, who only participated in the relay events last year, will now be competing individually in the under-11 sprint double (100m and 200m).

Harris commended the organisers and sponsors of the meet for providing such a great platform, promising athletes to showcase their talent and give them exposure for growth and development.

Manchester

The Manchester team is looking to better their 2017 performance at this year's championships.

“We always have high hopes of winning, but bettering our performance over last year is a top priority for us,” said Patrick Graham, parish co-ordinator of the 80-member team.

According to Graham, he is looking forward to great things from one of his top athletes, Bethany Banton, whom he said has a “bright future” in track and field. Overall he shared that there are about five top athletes in his camp that will definitely be bringing Manchester some points in their respective events.

Graham said he expects his team to put up superb performances in the middle distance races as he has “good talents” in those areas.

He said despite some challenges with getting in adequate training sessions, he believes strongly in the team's ability and lauded the young stars for their dedication to balancing their academics and track and field.

“This meet is a great platform for our athletes to showcase their talent, and I just want them to go out there and give of their very best, as so many opportunities can be derived from this platform that can be life-changing for them”, Graham said.

The team placed ninth last year at the JTA/Sagicor National Athletics Championship.

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