By Anthony Foster in Saint John's, Antigua

Described as the “biggest sporting event on the island,” the Coca Cola Inter-Schools Championships is set to ignite thousands of Antiguans over the next three days.

“Everybody looks forward to the Inter-Schools Championships sponsored by Coca Cola,” said Olympian Heather Samuel, Director of Sports in Antigua and Barbuda.

“We have seen tremendous growth in the whole aspect of Inter-Schools,” added Samuel, a former Antigua and Barbuda sprinter.

20160303 183523 220160303 183534Samuel, who won gold for what was then, Antigua in the Under-20 100m at the 1989 Carifta Games in Bridgetown, Barbados, said that unlike days gone by, where a teacher used to bring a student/athlete, “ we are now seeing where schools bringing full teams, fully uniformed and all the sporting staff you can think of.”

The Championships also moved away from grass at the Antigua Recreational Ground (famous for cricket) to Yasco track under lights

The three day meet, she said attracts a lot of spectators since they changed to two afternoons instead of all day. It opens with the long jump for Under-15 female on Friday at 1.00pm and closes with the 4x100m finals on Sunday night.

All the known events, except the hurdles and discus, are on the schedule.

Some of the schools expected to take part are Princess Margaret,

ClareHall Secondary, Ottos Comprehensive Secondary, St. Joseph Academy, Antigua Grammar School,  Antigua Girls High School, Jenning's Secondary, Antigua State College, Foundation Mixed, All Saints Secondary,  Pares Secondary, Island Academy and Sir McChesney George from Barbuda.

On the performance side, Samuel, who won Central American and Caribbean Games 100m silver and 200m bronze medals in El Salvador in 2002, said “we have seen tremendous improvement in the abilities of our athletes.”

“We have seen an increase in a number of the athletes who participate, long gone the days when we never have the Under-15 long jump, high jump and shot put, and now we having those events with most of the schools participating..

She continued: “So we have seen tremendous growth in Inter-Schools, but we are hoping to rival some of the bigger countries, I know we can’t compete with Jamaica, over a 100 years of Champs, but Antigua is growing its own product and we are, that being here would also bring some more highlight to our product we are trying to develop.”

Unlike other Caribbean countries, Samuels said the first event for young Antiguan athletes is the sprints, but “because they so want to be a part of the event, they want to participate in some of the other events … for example in the 5,000m. (A) few years ago, we never have so many persons participating, I can tell you, right now we have in excess of 25 persons.”

“We have seen some of the events grow from strength to strength, especially in the javelin…"

Samuel, who competed at the international level, World Championships or Olympic Games, between 1983 and 2004, said now they are hoping they can keep most of these athletes after Inter-Schools to help develop them.

Most of the participants she said returned to various sports such as basketball, football and cricket.

The top athletes expected for the event:
Barak Matthew – PMS 100m/200m/400m; Kalique St. Jean – PMS 800m/1500m/3000m; Joella Lloyd -AGHS
100m/200m/400m; Darrian Skerrit – SJA 100m/200m/400m; Peter Emanuel – CHSS 200m/400m /800m; Soniya Jones -PMS 100m/200m/400m; Kaden Joseph – JSS 100m/200m; Ramadin Alexander JSS 100m/200m; Kobe Glasford CHS 100m/200m; Sheldon Noble AGS HJ/ TJ/LJ; Dahlia Barnes -Island AcademyLJ/100m/200 and Kyle Browne – CHSS Javelin


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