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A THORNY ISSUE: BSSAC 2015 in retrospect


ANDI THORNHILL

A THORNY ISSUE: BSSAC 2015 in retrospect

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IT WAS THE LAST YEAR that Lester Vaughan couldn’t afford to miss out on being crowned boys’ champions at the Barbados Secondary Schools Athletic Championships (BSSAC).

They had a good shot last year to displace Queen’s College but were found short in the homestretch, and were comfortably beaten by 35 points and forced to settle for second position.

Some observers felt that Queen’s had that extra bit of depth and that’s why they outstayed their nearest rivals after five days of testing competition.

If that observation was taken to heart by the Lester Vaughan management team, it is true to say they paid heed to sound advice and a year later came up with the right balance and their first such title to boot.

Head coach Alwyn Babb coveted this title for a very long time, but he knows like everybody else who are true to themselves, that you can’t win on sentiment you must have strength in both track and field events, you must have the correct strategy and perhaps, most of all, you must have athletes who understand the game plan and remain focused to execute it.

It is difficult to fault any particular area that the new champions fell down in.

Truthfully, if you happened to be fortunate like me to witness their inter- house championships, you felt and knew something special was in the making this year. Everytime the senior boys lined up there was an air of expectancy that’s not normal at that level. Each man believed he was a gladiator and entitled to conquer. No wonder the big events like the 100, 200 and 400 metres produced different winners. The crowd roared for more.

These lads, in particular, were very competitive and they brought that attitude to BSSAC ensuring that they performed to their strengths.They found an accomplice in Under-13 competitor Mario Linton who kept the scale in check in his division. His focus was exemplary. The performances in the field helped to seal the deal.The Kings managed 278 points last year and 276.50 this term, so they were consistent.

The second-placed Christ Church Foundation can walk with pride when you place their performance in the right context.

This is a squad that came ninth last year with a very modest 98 points.This year they virtually tripled it by tallying 238.50 points.You couldn’t ask for anything more from their athletes who gave it their all, but were outpointed by a better rounded team as they duelled to the finish line.

Head coach Seibert Straughn and coaching consultant Ricky Carter must be given no end of credit for astute planning and motivating their charges to the level where they could actually win the big prize, when very few saw it on the radar before competition began.

What a difference a year makes because third-placed Harrison College also made a giant leap back up the ladder.They came eighth last year with 100 points. In 2015 they doubled it by gaining 209.50. Just like Foundation, their stocks didn’t appear to be that high going into the battle for supremacy but they came and fought gamely and sincerely.

With double sprint king Mario Burke not returning, emerging talents like middle distance stars Nathan Thornhill and Kai Alleyne, along with youthful sprinters like Julian Forde and Aren Spencer, form the nucleus of title contenders again in the future.

Lodge dropped one place down the charts from number 3 to 4 and with fewer points too. Last year they compiled 237 points and in 2015 they got 209. Perhaps they felt redemption in maintaining their proud tradition of winning the 4 x 400 metres relay. The euphoria seen in the body language in past stalwarts like Jim Wedderburn, Mac Fingall, Noel Lynch and Sheena Gooding told the entire tale!

There was an improved showing from St Leonard’s. Sixth last year (150.5 points) but fifth this year (205). Combermere dropped to sixth this year  from fifth but with more points than last year.In 2014 they got 166 points and this year 197.50.

The most alarming decline came from dethroned champions Queen’s College who went from No.1 with 313 points to eighth with 120.

They never looked like mounting a successful defence and serious introspection might tell them why.

Springer Memorial proved the naysayers wrong again by taking their 16th girls’ crown with more points than last year. In 2014 they pocketed 348 and this year they amassed 391  and proved once again they have mastered the art of knowing how to win titles.

I honestly believe that in an era when the film industry is growing in Barbados, their dominance in athletics should be highlighted in a documentary or even a movie.The same way the school was portrayed negatively back in the day, this would be one way to balance the story and show how best to turn negatives into positives and inspire a new generation to be the best they can be despite some odds.

Both second-placed The St Michael School and third-placed Foundation have the potential to challenge the queens even stronger, but I think they have to come a lot better in the field. Only the right balance will  make a major difference to their title aspirations.

It was heart-warming to see two competitive athletes like Akayla Morris of Lodge and the returning Mary Fraser of Daryll Jordan share the Victrix ludorum title and the quiet but determined Coleridge-Parry student Enrique Babb crowned as victor ludorum.

I was also happy for the modest Harrisonian Asha Cave, who won the senior girls sprint double and Lester Vaughan’s Tiana Bowen who rebounded from the disappointment of losing the 400 metres to triumph in her other events with grace among the Under-17s.

Coaches will have to look at the event schedule with greater care to see the recovery time between events in an effort to minimise the chances of multi-event athletes getting injured.

I would also like to see athletes spend a much shorter time on track while waiting for presentations to conclude and a big improvement in the public address announcements. The outstanding Michael Jules usually had to save the day.

School sports is meant primarily for schoolchildren so giving away some of their space to other patrons just isn’t cutting it and a lifting of the ban on musical instruments, mainly the drums, can change the ongoing melancholic atmosphere in the Stadium.

Andi Thornhill is an experienced, award-winning sports journalist. Email:[email protected]

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