April 2010 Volume 7

Champs 2010

Dr. Cedric Lazarus
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By now everyone knows that Wolmer’s won Boys Champs 2010 and everyone should also know by now that they won in 1910 too! KC and Calabar both put on good shows this year but the team from Wolmer’s was slightly better over the four days of Champs and won by 7 points. On the girls’ side Holmwood turned back a spirited challenge from Edwin Allen to win its eight title in a row.

Those who have been going to Champs for the past decade will no doubt agree that this was one of the most competitive Champs in that period. Last year, KC won by a whisker from Calabar and this year going into the final race Calabar and Wolmer’s were tied on points. (Forgive me if I cannot recall how many points they both had at that stage, after all by then KC had been relegated to third and had no chance of coming out on top!) I do not believe in destiny or that these things are ordained and all that, but after the last race I heard many Wolmerians saying that they were destined to win, since they won the very first Champs in 1910 and that the last time that they won, in 1956, it was Calabar who came second and KC third! (Well the following year, 1957, KC won, so if you believe in destiny that’s good)

On the final night the stadium was filled to capacity and I am sure that there were many who failed to get in. Many simply wanted to be there to be part of history – after all this was Champs 100. Most of Jamaica’s current crop of top athletes was there; we saw Veronica Campbell, Melaine Walker, Asafa Powell, Shelly Ann Fraser in her Wolmers tie, Aleen Bailey and many others. (We did not see Mr. Bolt which forced us to think that he was unavoidably out of the country) Athletes, male and female, who brought Jamaica glory in the past were also there in huge numbers. Among past KC athletes I chatted with my former class-mate and top athlete at Champs in the ‘70s, Maurice Beecher. I had not seen him in decades. Other KC big guns of the ‘70s such as the Gray brothers, Charles Headlam, Clive Bariffe, Marlon Pottinger and Wayne ‘Rockin Head’ Small were all there in purple and white. (Small is now one of the coaches of the KC team. Former top athletes from other schools also came out to celebrate the event. Daniel England of Calabar who ruled the class one 400 and 200 meters between 1988 and 1990 was in the crowd. I think that it was mentioned that he was attending Champs for the first time since 1990!

For me the athletic performances of Champs 2010 were Natoya Gould from Manchester High and Kemoy Campbell from Bellefield High. (I am not sure if there is any significance to the fact that both schools are in Manchester.)These two long distance runners decimated the field in all their races and gave Jamaica track and field aficionados hope that one day soon Jamaica will have competitive long distance runners on the international scene. Those who know these things however, point out that for these two athletes to be really competitive internationally they will need to spend some time with Kenyan or Ethiopian coaches who would be entrusted to take them to the next level.

As far as the KC team was concerned it had its fair share of ill fortune with injuries to two key members of the team on day two and the failure of the two class two hurdlers (one of whom was the defending champion) to make it to the finals after both inexplicably fell to the track in their respective semi-finals. For most KC fans, indeed for the entire stadium, that was when KC lost Champs. Despite this double misadventure the team never gave up epitomizing the motto, “The Brave may fall but never yield.” (Remember the name Stefan Fennell , as I am sure that although he fell and did not get a chance to defend his title he will be back next year to win the class one 110 hurdles event.) At the post Champs gathering in their hotel on the second night of Champs, those of us who were there witnessed leadership in action as the team captain, who called and chaired the team meeting ,praised every single member of the team for their performances. However, it was not all praises as he also rebuked one member of the team (he did not mention his name) who had behaved badly or inappropriately at the hotel. He then led the team in worship - reading appropriate verses of scripture and leading in the singing of a hymn which had all the boys holding hands and singing as if they were in church on a Sunday morning. It was very moving. The captain ended the meeting at around 10pm and closed by telling his team that every boy, with no exception should be in bed by 10:30 and should be dreaming by 11! Although members of staff, several parents and all the coaches were present, none spoke at that meeting as it was the captain’s meeting. He called it, he chaired it, he adjourned it! (The other co-captain also played a lead role.)

Of course, before leaving Jamaica I had to get my copy of the book ‘Champs 100 – A History of Jamaican High School Athletics, 1910 -2010’ by Hubert Lawrence. I bought my copy on the Friday of Champs and by Saturday morning I had read the first half. It is a must have for all track and field fans and since KC is heavily featured in it I suspect that most KC Old boys will buy a copy. Part 4 is entitled, ‘A Purple Comet, 1962-1975’ and has a picture of Trevor ‘TC’ Campbell’s 14 gold and 2 silver Champs medals. When I mentioned that I had bought my copy, one of my KC friends told me that he would wait a couple weeks before buying his, since he anticipated that the price would start falling by May. I told him not to bet on it and that he probably will not be able to find a copy in a few weeks anyway. I’ve got to go now – as I have to finish the second half of the book before my friends come to borrow it. .

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