As the 103rd staging of the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA)/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships begins today at the National Stadium, track and field lovers and pundits alike are excited to see what will unfold over the five-day spectacle.
While there will undoubtedly be intense competition for the respective title between Calabar and Kingston College on the boys side and reigning champions Edwin Allen and Holmwood on the girl side, there are also a number of individual performances that patrons will anticipate with bated breath.
Calabar High are the defending champions of the Boys' Championships after putting together a spirited performance to celebrate the school's 100th year of existence. Led by the likes of throwing powerhouse Fedrick Dacres and ace sprinter and Champion Boy Michael O'Hara, the Calabar Lions captured the title that had eluded from for three years with 287.5 points.
Both Dacres and O'Hara will be gearing up for the green-and-black-clad boys from Red Hills Road, thus allowing them to maintain their balance on the field and on the track.
For the men, who rained down chants of "Fortis!" despite their second-placed efforts, a few changes should put them right up there with Calabar and Jamaica College who are also expected to challenge through the efforts of Tyler Mason and Gavin Gibson.
Kingston College failed to garner meaningful points in the hurdles events last season, a phenomenon which they believe cost them dearly as they only lost the championship by about 20 points.
However, they should not have that to worry about this time around as Omar McLeod who ventured over from Manchester High is keenly tipped to take the Class One 110 and 400 metres hurdles.
That being said, Class One athletes Clive Pullen and Keneil Grant expected to dominate the Long Jump yet again. No school has been able to clinch back-to-back titles since Calabar did it in 2007 and 2008, so a target will surely be on their back.
On an individual level, the National Stadium will be hoping to see yet another fierce Class One clash between Odail Todd of Green Island High and Delano Williams of Munro College in both the 100 and 200 metres. In the field, high jump standout Christoff Bryan of Wolmer's Boys may end up competing against his personal best with very few in a position to seriously challenge him.
On the female side, the focus will be on Edwin Allen High, and how they are able to handle the pressure of their first Girl Championships success in the school's history. Coach Michael Dyke promised a period of dominance based on the programme that is currently in place.
But after surrendering the championship without much of a fight last season, Holmwood Technical are expected to bounce back in a huge way. Edwin Allen were seemingly unstoppable in the sprints, with the likes of Saqukine Cameron, Aaliyah Hopkins and Christania Williams all impressive in last year's staging en-route to their respective victories.
Holmwood Technical should not have difficulties finding motivation for this year's championships after missing out on their 10th consecutive title to their arch rivals. Lisa Buchanan and Gleneve Grange were among their standout performers last year and if they are to stand any chance of recapturing the Girls' crown this year, they will have to set examples for their fellow teammates.
St Jago High along with Vere Technical were on the outskirts last year and it could very well be a similar occurrence this time around. That being said, much is expected of defending 100 metres hurdles champions Chrisdale McCarthy of St Jago and the powerful Shericka Jackson of Vere.
Also expected to turn a few heads without being serious contenders are Hydel High who managed a fifth-placed finish last year. Shian Salmon in the Class Four High Jump and Samara Spencer in the Class Three Long Jump both broke records en route the victory for Hydel.
As things unfold over the coming days, we anxiously await Saturday night's finale to see which teams will stand atop the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships.
— Devaro Bolton