With increased focus on developing quality training programs and subsequently athletes, the competitiveness and anticipation has become euphoric ahead of the 2014 Jamaica Teachers' Association Sagicor National Athletics Championships. Each parish is currently relentless in preparing their respective teams for the 31st staging of the championships scheduled from Friday May 16 – Saturday May 17.
Portland will be looking to regain the title they won in 2012 but lost in 2013 to St. Andrew and expect strong performances from their class one, under seventeen, and class two, under fifteen girls to be the catalyst for a 2014 triumph. Parish coordinator Herman Reid has been at the helm of the Portland program for some eight years and has ensured 2014 will see his cohort of new and returning athletes put forward a strong challenge for the title.
Portland's Mackaela Fraser was the overall champion girl in 2013 and was also the under-13 champion girl. The young sprinter will replace Vanessa Bison who was the girls' under-15 champion girl in 2013, who has now stepped up to class one. Leading the charge on the male side is Andre Valentine who was a champion boy in 2013 but lost the honour to Kristoff Darby, then of St. Andrew on basis of Darby's double record breaking exploits. Valentine will return to contest the 100M, 200M and 400M and should get much help from team-mates, Romario Mickiel, under-15 and Dwayne Burke, under-13. Mickiel and Burke both represented Jamaica at the 2012 Caribbean Union of Teachers Regional Championships.
Another rural parish who is looking to represent well at the championships is St. Elizabeth. The team is overseen by their coordinator of approximately a decade, Prince Rowe and will look to leave an indelible mark at the 2014 championships. Rowe expects a strong showing in the under-11 category and warns of the potent ability of two upcoming talents in Boagi Nkumi and Oshane Blackwood in the 100M and 200M sprints. The St. Elizabeth team currently trains twice per week at STETHS and despite the challenge of getting all the athletes together due to the distances they have to travel, both Rowe and the young athletes are up-beat and rearing to go come May 16 and 17.
Defending champions St. Andrew will be looking to make it two titles in as many years. The Marlene Smith coordinated program is not without its challenges however, chief among them the loss of their 2013 overall champion boy Kristoff Darby who contributed 27 points in their championship run.
"We are not without our challenges; we have lost a few athletes to injuries coming from the recent Primary school championships and that is a big blow. In addition we are without Kristoff Darby who is now attending Kingston College and as such is ineligible to compete. However we do have a number of talented athletes who are seeking to take advantage of vacancies left and we are without doubt looking to retain out title," said Smith, Coordinator for St. Andrew's parish team.
The title defense will now rely on performances from Soverena Silburn, Yaneak Thomas and Stitchell Fongyee with Ackeem Wallace expected to contribute big points. Marlene Smith has been the coordinator for St. Andrew since 2003 she took a break between 2005 and 2010 and is now heading into her 4th year after returning to the post in 2011.
With each parish ever improving the, 31st staging of the JTA Sagicor National Athletics Championships is set to be a keen battle as each parish vies for the title of National Champion come May 16 and 17 at the National Stadium Track.