Too close to call!
GraceKennedy's Wehby anticipates close high schools' championships
Don Wehby (right), group chief executive officer of GraceKennedy Limited, presents a symbolic cheque to Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) President Keith Wellington during the launch of the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls' Athletics Championships at the National Stadium last Wednesday. (Photo: Karl McLarty)

While Kingston College and Edwin Allen High are favourites to retain the respective Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association/GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls' Athletics Championships, chief executive officer of GraceKennedy Group, Don Wehby believes this year's competition will be one of, if not the closest, in its 113-year history.

For Wehby, the fact that Calabar and Jamaica College on the boys' side, as well as Hydel High and Holmwood Technical on the girls' side, have been steadily rounding into form ahead of the March 28 to April 1 spectacle, makes it that much harder to choose a winner.

The annual five-day event, slated for the National Stadium, is set to welcome back a full-scale audience for the first time since 2019, after it was executed with a scaled-back 20,000 spectators last year. No spectators were allowed in 2021, and it was cancelled in 2020 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"I think we are going to have a fantastic Championships, and one of the interesting things I note is that there are no runaway leaders; it's very close. So, it can go either way between Hydel and Edwin Allen, and on the boys' side Jamaica College, Kingston College and Calabar are showing promise so it will be one of, if not the most exciting Championships for a long time," Wehby said during the event's launch last week.

"This time of the year always brings joy to my heart. It [the Championships] has always been good. We are coming out of the COVID and we are learning as we go on post-COVID. Whenever we think of Champs the thrilling and sometimes intense competition readily comes to mind, and I think this year is going to be another excellent staging," Wehby told the Jamaica Observer.

"So we are really looking forward to some of the races because when you look at some of the development meets and you see some of the athletes looking in superb form, you know that is just a glimpse of what they are expected to produce at Champs," he added.

Wehby recalled some close championship battles over the years, particularly on the boys' side.

In 2009 Kingston College won by a mere one and a half points to tally 223.50 to Calabar's 222, and a year later in 2010 Wolmer's Boys' (208.5 points) outlasted Calabar (201.5) by seven points. However, the closest in most recent times was in 2017 when Calabar (317 points) edged their North Street rivals by three points.

So unlike last year, when Kingston College and Edwin Allen both won handsomely by more than 50 points, indications are that they won't have things all their way on this occasion.

Hydel recently signalled that they are gunning for Edwin Allen, whose lengthy reign dates back to 2014, as they edged the Clarendon-based school by a half-point – 357.5 points to 357 – at the Central Championships.

Though expressing favour for Kingston College's Bouwahjgie Nkrumie, who is expected to produce something explosive in the sprint, Wehby pointed to the importance of teamwork and encouraged athletes to continue dreaming big.

"That young man from KC was impressive when he ran 10.19 after gearing down at 90 metres. I was joking when I said I'm expecting him to go a flat 10 seconds but now I'm thinking he might just do so if the conditions are correct," the government senator noted.

"Champs is a major success every year and to me this demonstrates the single most important takeaway coming out of the event — the importance of teamwork. And at the end of the day, although many athletes participate in individual events, they do it all for the glory of the team that will walk away with the championship on the girls' and boys' sides.

"I want to encourage the athletes to continue to dream big and make excellence their hallmark — not only on the track and in the field but also in the classroom," Wehby ended.

BY SHERDON COWAN Staff reporter

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