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A THORNY ISSUE: Foundation’s time

ANDI THORNHILL, [email protected]

A THORNY ISSUE: Foundation’s time

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THE CROWN in the jewel of secondary schools athletics has changed hands after 12 dominant years by Springer Memorial School.

And I must say the Christ Church Foundation girls are worthy successors. They had the numbers, but more importantly, the quality on track and also in the field to claim what had become the most coveted crown in any form of school sports in Barbados.

Springer had raised the bar over the years and it seemed that their championship would remain out of the reach of the others for a while yet. It seemed that they had designed a foolproof concept that kept them at the top of the class.

It was all about efficient management of their resources and the application of their athletes to succeed and stay a few steps ahead of the chasing pack.

Of course, they were fortunate over the years also to have a collection of outstanding athletes who bought into the idea of creating a legacy that might be hard to surpass anytime soon.

The pretenders appeared to find it hard to put together a similar combination and inevitably they lagged far behind the Government Hill queens. It didn’t stop them from dreaming of climbing to the top, but maybe some lacked the will or the physical education departments at the respective schools didn’t do enough to motivate the children.

I think that started to change from last year and it became an open secret that Foundation and The St Michael School were plotting to stage a palace coup and overthrow Springer.

It came to pass for Foundation and it was well deserved.

They were hungry for the title and very passionate and determined to reach their goal.

Even if reconfiguring the championships into a zonal meet disadvantaged Springer, I believe that however the system is set up, the cream still rises to the top.

There were predictions the girls from Church Hill would win this year, even though they lost the zonal section to Springer because, in the first instance, they had more qualifiers going forward to the big party, and in the second, they had more quality, particularly on track.

They had the winning formula once the athletes executed to the best of their ability.

Remember the years Springer were dominant they had exceptional athletes and a support cast to help pile up the points. At different times, they had stars like Shadir Greene, known as the “Stadium Bully”, Akela Jones and Tristan Evelyn, who were sure to give them at least 40 points and lay the platform to trounce their opponents by well over 100 points.

This year was arguably their weakest on track for a generation and it is one of the main reasons they were dethroned.

On the flipside, Foundation had the likes of the talented Hannah Connell, Jaliyah Denny, Leilani Haddock, Elizabeth Williams, Rosette Hoyte, Tiana Bowen, Gabrielle Yearwood and Kyla Cummins, and they collectively delivered a ton of points on the road to victory.

When you add the strength of someone like joint victrix ludorum Ashantia Phillips in the field, it was the perfect winning combination, taken straight out of the book of Springer.

There is no harm in learning from the best. Full credit must go to Seibert Straughn, who has endured plenty of criticism in the past for not delivering a championship, and Ricky Carter, whose experience and expertise helped to create a winning solution this time around.

We must also spare a thought for the efforts of The St Michael School and Harrison College coaching staff for showing intent and determination to make a difference. Perhaps, their time isn’t far from lifting the trophy.

Who knows, the boys of Lester Vaughan might be thinking they can create a legacy similar to Springer’s after winning two straight years.

Yet again, we saw the team that had the right combinations coming out on top.

Alwyn Babb thinks strategically, so there was no surprise that they retained the title. Once the material is there, Babb and his assistants know how to capitalise. They can expect Foundation and the resurgent Queen’s College to be breathing down their necks next year.

I know there has been plenty of discussion about the so-called recruitment process of the schools from year to year and while it is true that it might benefit some more than others in a particular period, let’s be honest and admit that it is now becoming a common practice even in instances when athletes aren’t being transferred to sixth form schools. Queen’s College remains an exception to this kind of trading.

The biggest reservation I have with this system is where some athletes switch schools but might not improve academically. I believe you can call it a success if there’s a balance because there’s life after school and the student who’s likely to succeed is the one who is well rounded.

So is the new format here to stay? You don’t know if something will succeed unless you give it a try. I think the experiment worked and I believe it will be retained after the post- mortem is done. I just hope the stands at the National Stadium will be repaired in time for next year’s competition.

On the first day of the championship, Foundation’s principal shook my hands and wore a smile as wide as Christ Church. I can only imagine what his body language is like now after the successful exploits of the school as a whole, particularly the girls. They have finally earned the right to brag a bit.

• Andi Thornhill is an experienced sports journalist and media consultant.