The Inter-Secondary Schools Track and Field Championships used to be poorly attended and had little significance to serious athletes vying for CARIFTA Games qualification and hopeful of track scholarships that could lead to pro careers.
Thanks to the renewed attitude of the Cayman Islands Ministry of Sports, the Ministry of Education and the Cayman Islands Athletics Association, which is holding the fifth annual Inter-Secondary Schools Track and Field Championships at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex on Wednesday and Thursday, the event has been given new life.
Minister of Sports Mark Scotland and Dalton Watler, president of the athletics association, have put much time and effort into promoting these championships, as has Bernie Bush, the track association’s vice president.
Schools competing are Triple C, Cayman International, Grace Christian Academy, John Gray, Cayman Academy, Wesleyan Christian Academy, St. Ignatius Catholic, Cayman Prep, Clifton Hunter, Montessori By the Sea and Layman E. Scott.
The Inter-Secondary Schools Track and Field Championships were created to promote track and field development. More than 300 students will compete in 11 events, including 100 metres, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, 3,000m, long jump, shot put, discus, javelin and high jump.
The event is free and open to the public. Preliminary races on Wednesday are from 9am-3pm, with finals on Thursday from 3-8pm.
Middle distance runner Tahj Lewis, 15, will score some invaluable points for Clifton Hunter School in the 400 metres, 800m and 1500m. “I hope to win all my events and break some personal bests,” he said. “I’ve been training really hard.
“I hope to qualify for CARIFTA in the 400m and 800m,” he added. “For the 800m, I’ve already done the qualifying time and I’m only 0.2 seconds away from the qualifying time for the 400m.”
Lewis’s favourite pro athlete is Nick Symmonds, the American 800m runner. “I like his race tactics.”
Tiffany Cole is the most outstanding female teenager in Cayman Islands track and field. Winner of numerous junior and women’s titles already at 16, Cole is set for her third CARIFTA Games in the Bahamas over the Easter weekend as an Under-20 athlete.
The John Gray High School student will compete in the 400m, 800m and 1500m and is likely to win all three.
“The qualifying mark in the 800m is my personal best of 2 minutes, 22 seconds which I set last year but I haven’t hit it yet,” Cole said.
“I believe I can because I’ve trained really hard and know what I want and will go after it.
“I hope John Gray can do really well and finish in the top three this year,” she added. “We won it last year and hope we can retain it.
“I don’t feel any pressure to win because I look on it more as a training session and practice for the real thing which is CARIFTA.”
Cole hopes to get a track scholarship to a college in the United States and then turn professional.
One of her sporting heroines is Cydonie Mothersill, Cayman’s five-time Olympic sprint representative.
“I hope to do well,” she smiled. “Hopefully, I will soon qualify for CARIFTAs in the 800m and 1500m.”
Sprinter Ackeil Williams, 17 next month, attends Cayman Academy. His track hero is Usain Bolt. “My school will come out alright,” he said.
Vecko Ramjeet, 14, is at the Wesleyan Christian Academy and is in the 100m, 200m and 400m. “Hopefully, I will come in first,” he said. “I’ve trained well.” His sporting hero is his coach Ato Stephens, Cydonie’s husband.
Kenrick Williams, Cayman’s track technical director, is pleased that the children have an outlet to showcase their talents, as does coach Tyrone Yen.
Williams said: “We are hopeful that these championships will produce what it was designed for, which is to anchor some of the latent talent that we have in the high school system.
“We’re looking for great things from people like Troy Long, Javdon Taylor, Brandon Johnson and some young ladies who we need to pay attention to, such as Lacee Barnes in the shot put and discus. She is a tremendous talent and one person we look forward to seeing.
Williams added: “We hope that the quality of competition we get with all the high schools together, we can unearth all the talent for CARIFTA, the Central American and Caribbean Games, Pan Ams and World Juniors.
“Wherever the athletes are slated to attend this year they can use these championships as a catalyst to see if they can qualify for them.”
There was a word of caution for athletes competing in unusually chilly conditions Cayman is experiencing this week.
“It might affect a few of them, but not all,” Williams said. “If they do warm up properly and wear their sweats and their tights then when it’s time for them to compete they will be still warm.”