KINGSTON, Jamaica— Emmanuel Christian Academy (ECA) won the Jamaica Independent Schools Association (JISA) National Athletics Championships for the very first time this year.
It was an impressive win by the newly crowned champions who led from start to finish at a grueling two-day event and also brought to an end, a 14-year streak by the championship's most dominant school, Hydel Prep.
Head coach Gregory Jones has been at the heart of the ECA programme from day one and has helped to shape and build sports at the school.
He has witnessed firsthand the dominance of Hydel and was therefore delighted to be the one to end the dominance of the Ferry-based institution.
“It feels good to be able to break the Hydel jinx. The last time anybody won this trophy apart from Hydel was 14 years ago. I’m sure that they are going to regroup, reorganise and come again next year, but it feels good to be able to get our hands on the trophy,” he said.
ECA boasted a big and talented squad at the 2022 championships and Jones said that the preparations began early after two years of cancelations.
“During the COVID period, once the kids started coming back out we started back the programme in small groups with the permission of the principal and the administration. We added some coaches to the coaching staff to help and the result is here.
With the event congested to two days instead of the usual three, thanks mainly to the reduced number of schools participating, it proved to be a bit taxing on the legs of the athletes, Jones explained.
“It was a tough two-day championship because we are used to having three-day championships. The kids weren’t 100 per cent fit, it was tough on the legs, tough on them physically, but it was a good championship and a good win.”
Over the two days of the event, the ECA parents could be seen and heard as they cheered on the athletes on the track and in the field. Jones pointed to the impact of the support as one of the keys to success.
“Our parents support the programme and we give thanks. Our school administration, the principal, the board, supports the programme and they invest in the programme, so we expect to do well. We are not going to win all the time and I have always said that, but we should do well because we get the support we want.”
Caleb Taylor was one of the stars of the meet who won a total of four gold medals, three individual and one relay gold and Jones hopes that as his star athlete matriculates to high school that both he and others, will fall into the “right hands”.
“He is a fantastic athlete. I hope he gets into the right hands in high school if he continues.”
“We have Mikal Rose who is a phenomenal athlete also, so it’s up to the parents, but we hope that these good athletes get into the right hands in high school,” he continued.
As for his title defense next year, Jones already has a plan in place to make a solid attempt.
“The good thing is that we are going to have a good boys' and girls' Class 3 next year. We are going to lose some Class 1 athletes but we have some Class 1 athletes that are going to remain.
“Fundamentally we are building a field events programme and that’s where most schools will win the championship, not on the track, gathering points in the field. So, we have brought in a quality coach for field events and we are going to expand that programme, so we will be able to accumulate points in the championship on a year-to-year basis,” he explained.
ECA, under the guidance of Jones, also does very well in the various JISA football competitions.