April 2023 Volume 19


Gerald Hector
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From the time I got the call that “Champs” was on the horizon, I made it a priority to adjust my schedule to make it this year.

After many weeks of procrastination, I got a season ticket from a friend who had extras, booked a hotel room that I would later cancel because my aunty wanted me to stay at her house, and I luckily got one of the last car rentals in Kingston. It was like my destiny to attend the 34th staging of Boys and Girls Championships this year. Destiny is a good word in this context, because I had not been to “Champs” since 1989 since my own selfishness caused me deep embarrassment that in hindsight has been one of my best learning/teaching moments.

Regardless of that fact, doing the math took exactly 34 years as well for me to grace the stadium again. No doubt this staging was going to be special. It did not disappoint by any stretch of the imagination. At a fifty thousand feet level, I can say three things about my beloved Kingston College I noticed as soon as I hit the stadium: (i) the brotherhood is stronger than ever, so much so that I saw folks like Steve Savory and Peter McKenzie donned in their purple and white while boarding our flight from Miami to Kingston. No words had to be exchanged, just a nod out of respect to my purple brother. The brotherhood on the flight even prompted one of the stewardesses on the flight to ask me why were so many of the men dressed in purple and white (I was not in purple, but had on a white polo shirt). I quickly informed her that they were former students of the greatest high school for boys in the world. (ii) The current students need Old Boys to provide significantly more of their time, talent, and treasure to extend the legacy of our great institution of higher learning. Some of the physical plant and all forms of programming need attention despite several projects sponsored by various chapters around the world. (iii) The future is bright as our brand and impact now reaches an international community showcasing the “culture of excellence” that was envisioned from our first headmaster Bishop Percival Gibson. These three things speak to the ethos that undergirds all that Kingston Colleges stands for in terms of providing a quality education and future possibilities for whom society often times considers “the least of these.” Kingston College is not only a high school. It is a philosophy that impacts generations if applied as imparted.

My more meaningful reflections on Champs of 2023 on our way to accomplishing Mission 34 are noted below. Each night I tried to capture my thoughts and images as I sat there in the stadium as a spectator watching this amazing display of athletic and institutional pride by both athletes and supporters alike.

March 29, 2023
Last night I had an opportunity to witness history at the national stadium in Jamaica in both the male and female versions of the Class 1 100 meters final. Both were record-breaking. The Class 1 Boys record was also broken in the semifinals. Despite all the great running and jumping I witnessed last night, as the Class 1 winner, Bouwahjgie Nkrumie, was being interviewed, I could not take my eyes off the screen despite not being able to hear his words. Obviously, he was fighting back tears. To see the hugs trackside from his coach and his mother indicated to me that this was more than a race. A gentleman in the stands after the race shared with me a story about his humility and how down to earth he is.

Last year he was hurt and could not perform the way he hoped, and he had to work his way back from injury. Instantly I remembered an event where he was pulled aside by sprinting legend Usain Bolt after a race competing for Jamaica. Only God knows what was said in that exchange, but one more pearl of wisdom from a legend could not hurt. Then seeing another photo of him running on bare feet brought it home even closer. At that point I understood the tears, the hugs, and the smiles.

This young man is on a journey. A journey within himself, that brings along with him so many others in a nation and a world. What a weight to carry? What a weight to lift? I have not been to Champs in 34 years, but I am glad I was on hand to witness these two record breaking performances, but more importantly to be inspired by these two young people who clearly exhibited that through hard work, perseverance, and support, we will achieve all we set our minds to.

Peace and blessings Bouwahjgie Nkrumie, and Allana Reid for showing us all that it is not how we start, but how we finish. Never yielding!!!!!!

March 30, 2023
Sitting back on the completion of my second day at Champs for the first time in thirty-four years, several thoughts came to mind. First, it is a global event as this photo was sent to me from a friend viewing from Canada. Second, whenever I am home on the island, I listen to local talk shows. Wednesday, driving to the stadium, I was listening to the Ronny Thwaites show and he had a guest on upset at the “corporatization” of Champs. For a long time, I was one of the “purists” who believed that schoolboy and schoolgirl sports should be in the realm of education and development from grade seven to grade thirteen (if that was the desire), and that the transfer between schools, and the international student recruiting would hurt the quality of the overall educational pursuit. I even spent my own money in 1996 to bring to Jamaica the Howard University and US Olympic track and field coach William P. Moultrie to talk about the NCAA Clearinghouse changes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nap68g3irA8). My concern then was that our student athletes were not focusing on the educational aspects of the term “student athlete”, and they were limiting their opportunities to set themselves up for their futures. I even delivered a white paper to the then administration of the Jamaica Amateur Athletics Association on a plan that I think would take the message far and wide, but it was unsuccessful. Witnessing the past two days, my views are evolving (a work in progress).

Is it because of my work as an administrator at a Power 5 institution in the NCAA in the United States for the past two years, where I can see firsthand how sports can lift an institution’s academic and research profile and provide greater opportunities for students and faculty? Is it that I am embracing the fact that the business of sports has evolved where we now seek a return on investment, with the product being well rounded global citizens of character? This debate will rage on, but one thing is certain, Champs has something to offer, that if harnessed properly can be of great benefit to our student athletes, and the myriad of institutions that participate in ways we have not yet truly envisioned because at times our unity is blinded by our loyalty to one institution over another.

The pond is large enough for everyone in my estimation. Third, Champs is therapeutic for those who need a break from the norms of a year. A disruptor of our annual ebb and flow of life’s activities. Coming out of the pandemic, this was needed, and might have influenced my decision to attend at all costs. This glorious event is a reminder that we have an anchor in school pride, friendships, and camaraderie. It rekindles lost relationships, and it is a reality check on how short life is as we learn of classmates who are no longer with us. It is more than a track and field meet. It is a reunion. Fourth, it is a great equalizer (just like Hurricane Gilbert in 1988), as it is rare to see all levels of socioeconomic attainment in one place cheering and supporting their teams. The peanut man “high fiving” with the corporate executives with the Rolex and Gucci outfits. Where else can you see polar opposites enjoying the beauty of a sporting event? Manning Cup?

Champs brings us to a place of realization that “Out of Many, We Are One People.” I am so glad I made the trip after all these years.

April 1, 2023
Champs 2023 was yet another reminder that Jamaica is a special place. I haven’t been to this event in 34 years, and to see my beloved institution Kingston College complete “Mission 34” in person made it that more special. Until next year. Won’t be so long next time between visits. Congratulations to the team, management and supporters. It takes a collective effort to win a championship, and it was done in resounding fashion. Fortis for Life!!!!

April 2, 2023
One photo captured the essence of what Champs means to so many young people, their families, their futures, and I dare say our nation. After an unfortunate incident in the semifinals of the Class 1 Boys 800 meters, we all watched as one of the impacted athletes got up and completed the race, doing so to a standing ovation. To see the organizers remedy that mishap by allowing ten individuals to compete in the finals had a meta narrative in place that screamed how important Champs is for the development of our student athletes. While traveling back home yesterday I was also intrigued by the stories and comments about future sponsorship, bad behavior, indiscipline, and indifference.

I am not sure what Champs I spent over four days watching live as some on social media described it. Something is missing. I would say that Champs affords our young people a chance to look to their future; however, it provides us all as a society an opportunity to pull alongside them to help steer and guide them along. It gives an opportunity for us to sign up as mentors, give back to the various schools participating, and quite possibly we can change the outcomes such that the outrage over two incidents be tempered and positive comes from them.

At the end of the day, Champs is just one cog in a very large wheel in the preparation of our young student athletes, but we cannot forget that Champs comes once a year, but the reactions I read from several adult comments suggest that we need to do better in attempting to seed a brighter future of our youths in general by using this yet again as another teachable moment about conflict resolution, and managing emotions in stressful situations.

These are my two cents because somehow, I feel as if we constantly throw the baby out with the bath water opting for the quick idea to fix something in the moment, versus having the vision to attack it at the root because it will require a sacrifice of our time, talent and treasure. Well done young student athletes. Keep pushing and striving. You will all experience highs and lows, the key thing is to learn from them and move from strength to strength.

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