By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
THE Bahamas Parents Association of Track and Field Athletes, which was born 17 years ago with the concept of helping to get as many Bahamian student athletes off to colleges and universities in the United States, has assisted a total of 24 more athletes for the 2016/2017 season.
According to Harrison Petty, the founder and president of the association, which serves as a branch of the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations, the programme can boast of being one of the most successful in the country because they have seen the proof in the countless student athletes they have assisted in the past.
“We have athletes from Grand Bahama, Eleuthera, Andros, Abaco and New Providence,” Petty said. “Our programme reaches the entire Bahamas. Athletes from every island applies and based on their academic requirements, that will determine which school they go to.”
The list, which includes student-athletes from last year as well, are as follows:
Alexis Gray from St John’s College to Texas Southern University; Sharad Mackey from Nassau Christian Academy to the University of Central Arkansas; Tyrik Thurston from Anatol Rodgers to Highland Community College; Ken Russell from Grand Bahama’s Tabernacle Baptist to ASA College (Miami Campus); Oral Rolle from CR Walker to Colby Community College; Anthony Bowleg from St Augustine’s College to Colby Community College; Dawayna Pratt from Queen’s College to Colby Community College; Samson Colebrooke from Queen’s College to Colby Community College; Kristin Collie from St Anne’s to Barton County Community College; Kendrick Thompson from Grand Bahama’s Tabernacle Baptist to Western Texas College; Dominick Lightbourne from St Anne’s to South Dakota Stat University; Ricardo Richardson from Grand Bahama’s Tabernacle Baptist to Colby Community College; Darius Major from St John’s College to Alcorn State University; Breanna Pratt from CR Walker to Colby Community College; Denzil Pratt from St Augustine’s College to Liberty University; Ian Kerr from Queen’s College to Western Texas College; Laushanya Neymour from Grand Bahama’s Tabernacle Baptist to Coffeyville Community College; Donovan Storr from North Andros High to Colby Community College; Katrina Seymour from Queen’s College to Eastern Tennessee State University; Markael Sands from St Augustine’s College to Indiana Tech University; Jordan Minnis from Bahamas Academy to Iowa Western Central College; Bria Sands from Abilene Christian High School to Life University; Andre Colebrooke from Central Eleuthera High to Southeastern Louisiana University and Mesha Newbold from St Augustine’s College to Coffeyville County College.
Like every programme instituted, Petty said they have ran into a snag where their association would like to send more Bahamians directly into the NCAA Division One schools, but because they don’t meet all of the academic requirements, they are forced to send them into a number of Community Colleges and NAIA colleges, which they will attend for two years and at their completion, they are then qualified to get into the NCAA schools.
“They all have done exceptionally,” Petty said. “Our programme is 17 years old with athletes such as Derrick Atkins, Trevor Barry and Adrian Griffith all coming through the programme. As a matter of fact, I would say that more than half of our Olympians came through our programmee. We were able to identify scholarships for them right out of high school. They may not do a NCAA school, but once they would have done their two years at the community colleges and equipped themselves academically, they do end up in the NCAA schools.”
Going into this year, Petty said they have seen athletes who completed Barton County Community College now attending Texas Tech.
“That’s the route that the Bahamian kids have to take, but it is very encouraging,” Petty said. “There are a number of athletes who apply for these scholarships, but it is encouraging to see the amount of athletes who do qualify because some of then are unprepared. The biggest let down is their unpreparedness, is not academics, but it is in athletics. Based on the information that we have, we have guys running 11.5 seconds in the 100 metres and 52 in the 400m and they are applying for scholarships.
“There’s no school that’s going to give you an athletic scholarship running these times. Schools are looking for athletes who are serious about their education and they take track and field as a job and not just a hobby. When they offer scholarships for $20,000 a year or $80,000 over four years, that’s payment for performances. So kids can’t look at track and field or sports as a hobby. They have to look at this the same way that we do with our jobs. They have to put in the time, eat right, study hard and get to bed on time.”
For those athletes that the association assists in getting into NAIA schools, Petty said they are required to pass five BGCSEs, two of which must be mathematics and English and any other three with a pass from A to E, whereas the NCAA wants the passes to be from A to C.
“The NAIA grading system looks at a D and E pass as a 2.0 and in order to get into an NAIA or any other university, you need at least a 2.0 or above.”
While the athletes are getting at least 60 per cent of their scholarship paid for by their respective schools, Petty said three years ago they have been able to get the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology to come on board and assist by providing the balance of the 40 per cent, or $3,000 to athletes recommended from the association through a grant of $120,000 per year offered.
“In order to keep the track programme alive, well and vibrant, we go through these extents,” Petty said. “I think that over 17 years, based on our record, we have proven that we are really committed to the improvement of track and field in the Bahamas.”