As the debates rage on about who will finish tops at this year’s 113th staging of the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA)/GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championships, Jamaica College’s Head Coach Neil Harrison believes it will come down to the team that executes most efficiently from the start on March 28 to the conclusion on April 1.
With that in mind, Harrison expects nothing less than a high-quality showing from his well-rounded Old Hope Road-based unit as they seek to turn the tables on reigning champions Kingston College (KC).
Jamaica College broke a 10-year drought when they won the title for a 22nd time in 2021, but they failed to follow up last year, finishing second some 72 points behind their North Street-based rivals.
“The title is always on a coach’s mind, especially when you are in the big three with KC and Calabar, but it’s not an easy championship by any stretch of the imagination,” Harrison said.
“It’s going to be competitive right across the board when it comes to these three schools but there are other quality athletes which will be in the mix. So, while KC are the defending champions and possible favourites, I think it will come down to the team that wants it most in terms of their performances â€” that team will come out on top,” he told the Jamaica Observer.
Harrison pointed out that their build-up to hunt a 23rd lien on the Mortimer Geddes Trophy was mostly subdued, particularly in the early stages, and if that is anything to go by then some explosive performances should be on the cards at the five-day spectacle.
“The team is doing quite well and each track meet we have seen significant improvement, which is very good on our part because we were moving from simple to a little bit more complex.
“If you reflect on the early part of the season you would have seen us performing, but only at a moderate tempo. However the closer we get to the championship the tempo intensifies as we look to carry the form into the big show,” Harrison shared.
“So, I am very happy with how the boys are looking so far. The team is a very rounded one and we are hoping that come Champs they will rise to the occasion,” he added.
Middle distance runner Kemarrio Bygrave and Malique Smith Band, who is expected to tackle the 200m and 400m double, are just two of those who have already produced some telling performances.
Still Harrison, though confident in their quality, remains mindful that they are still young talents who require nurturing.
“Much is always expected of Jamaica College when it comes on to Champs, and the athletes know that. Trying to fulfil those expectations come with a lot of pressure so we as a coaching staff have always done our best, and continue to do our best to keep them relaxed and grounded to ensure they can hone their true potential beyond the championship,” he stated.
“So we haven’t done anything much different from last year where the mental aspect is concerned. The programme is a continuous one and I think, as we move from year to year, the adaptation takes place and they get stronger and therefore you will see that in the performance,” Harrison said.