The Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) Sagicor National Athletics Championships set for Friday, May 16 and Saturday, May17 at the National Stadium Track will exhibit the dedication and poise of its Parish Coaches at the junior developmental level. The Championships has long been one of the keys to Jamaica's emergence as the hub for development of high quality athletes (See Video Below).

The work that is put in by the competition's Parish Coordinators/Coaches has been integral in the development of the social, athletic and life skills, as the values and discipline learned through sport helps to mould character of participating athletes.

St Andrew has maintained its competitiveness amongst the top challengers for the title. Merlene Smith, Coordinator for the St. Andrew parish team, steered the urban parish to the Championships title last year, ousting previous winners Portland. Under Smith's guidance, St. Andrew also produced the overall Champion Boy Saydrian Campbell.

Now in its 31st year the Championships have boasted several of the nation's top athletic stars, including Jamaica's Golden Girl, Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce, OD and perennial champion Dr the Honourable Usain Bolt. While the exploits of Fraser-Pryce and Bolt have attracted and maintained the much deserved attention, credit is however due to the development they underwent at the 'grass roots' level.

While speaking at the opening ceremony of the 2014 staging of the championships Shelley Ann Fraser-Pryce recounted her days of participation for St. Andrew in the JTA Sagicor National Athletics Championships with fondness and appreciation.

"Being a part of the JTA Championship was a big thing, because I wanted to come out on top and I had to deliver. I understand how important it is for athletes – this is the beginning for a lot of them, if they want to take it further. I am a product of the JTA Championship" said Fraser-Pryce.

Fraser-Pryce also acknowledged her then coach Stephon Brown, at the Parish Championship level in 1998, as one of the contributors to her success at the international level.

Herman Reid, Coordinator for the Portland parish team is another stout example of the qualities which have become the benchmark for success in developmental athletics. Reid led Portland to the championship title in 2012 and was a strong challenger in 2013 showing the consistency of his program. Portland, though eventually edged out by St. Andrew in 2013, still managed to produce the overall champion girl, Machaela Fraser which again credits the impetus of Reid's program.

The role the JTA Sagicor National Athletics Championships plays in the development of our nation's youngsters is one to be admired and mirrored by other sporting disciplines. Though St. Andrew and Portland are the front runners, mention must be made of St. Elizabeth and their coordinator, Prince Rowe who has also established a tremendous program. Kingston is also tested and proven as a quality program thanks to the ongoing work of their coordinator, Ainsley Harris.

The JTA Sagicor National Athletics Championships will pit teams from all fourteen parishes against each other to determine an overall champion and will be contested by children aged 6 through 17 who are selected based on their performance at individual school championships and parish meets, therefore attracting the best talent island-wide.  



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