By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
THE Bahamas Association of Independent Secondary Schools (BAISS) annual track and field championships will go on as planned this week, but organisers have decided to stage the first two days of competition on Wednesday and Thursday in the original Thomas A Robinson Track and Field Stadium before moving to the TAR National Stadium for the final day on Friday.
The BAISS made the adjustment to the venue after they renegotiated with the National Sports Authority over what they had called exorbitant fees charged for the use of the three days at the new stadium.
Apparently, the BAISS felt the $6,500 per day to use the new stadium was simply too high, considering that the majority of the 11 participating schools only bring their athletes out for the first two days.
It was understood that in addition to paying the NSA their fees, the BAISS also has to pay the Bahamas Association of Certified Officials (BACO) and the meet management team for putting on the meet and they were not making the money on the first two days with the gate fees.
So the BAISS has decided to use the original stadium when the meet will get underway at 9am on Wednesday and continue at the same time on Thursday.
However, because the schools allow their students to come out to support their teams on Friday, they will use the new stadium to accommodate the anticipated crowd.
When the meet get underway on Wednesday, athletes will compete in the heats and finals of the 400 metres, the short hurdles and the 1,500m as well as the heats of the 100m. Day two will feature the finals of the 100m, the heats in the 400m hurdles and the 800m with the finals of the 200m, 800m, 400m hurdles and the distance races on the final day.
Throughout the three days, competition will be spread out for the field events, including the throws and the jumps.
The St Augustine’s College Big Red Machine will be out to defend their title. Team coordinator/manager William ‘Knucklehead’ Johnson said the coaching staff of Jason Edwards, Dianne and Dawen Woodside-Johnson, JeVaughn Saunders and Tito Moss, have assembled a team that they feel will be able to contend with the challenge from arch rivals Queen’s College Comets and the other nine schools, including St Anne’s Bluewaves, Jordan Prince Williams Falcons, Nassau Christian Academy Crusaders, St John’s Giants, St Andrew’s Hurricanes, Charles W Saunders Cougars, Kingsway Academy Saints, Temple Christian Suns and the Bahamas Academy Stars.
“We do have the team to repeat. The kids just have to go out there and execute and be team players,” Johnson said. “Sometimes you are called upon to do events that will take you out of your comfort zone, but it’s a point meet. It’s not about coming first, second or third for the medals.
“So some of the athletes will be called upon to do some things that they don’t usually do because of the type of meet that it is.”
Looking at the make up of the Big Red Machine, Johnson said their girls are very strong, led by the 1-2-3 punch of Megan Moss, Jaide Knowles and Anthaya Charlton in the intermediate division and Doneisha Anderson, Lakelle Kinteh, Latia Saunders and Dachye Stubbs in the senior division.
As for the boys, he said they will rely heavily on sprinters Adrian Curry, Joel Johnson and Benjamin Clarke in the senior division, while Otto Laing and Zachary Evans will be anchoring the junior division.
“We have a good team all around,” Johnson said. “We go to compete because of the competition and at the end of the day, the best person will win. We just to leave the stadium knowing that we did our best and the kids left it all on the line.”
Three years ago, the Comets snapped the Big Red Machine’s stranglehold of the title. They went on to take the title back to Queen’s College for two years before St Augustine’s regained it last year. Comets’ head coach Everette Fraser said they will be ready go after the Big Red Machine.
“We are prepared. It’s going to be a battle. If the kids come out and compete, we are going to have a good outing,” he proclaimed. “We only want the best. That is the gold. That’s what we are looking at. We look good and we are strong in all areas. It will just appear how we stack up against the other schools.”
Lavardo Hendfield, Mookie Rolle and Shaun Miller Jr are expected to head the Comets’ charge in the senior boys division. On the girls’ side, look for Tylar Lightbourn and Danielle Dean. Nathan Moss and Kendrick Major are the 1-2 punch for the intermediate boys and Carnitra Mackey, Paige Stuart and Sierra Sears are the athletes to watch on the girls side.
In the junior boys division, Ahmad Evans and Jamal Flowers are the go-to athletes, while it’s Javonya Valcourt and Paige Archer on the girls’ side. And for the bantam girls, it’s Sarah Hepburn and Lanique Thompson and the boys are Neugynen Culmer and Tristen Ferguson. Fraser said they have a number of other athletes who will make their presence felt when the meet start.
With a lot of their strength on their middle and distance runners, Fraser said they should make it an interesting meet.
“We don’t have a weak division. I think we strong in all of the divisions,” he predicted. “All around we look good. It’s going to come down to who want it the most. I think we are hungry enough to win it.”
So who will win it this year?
Over time will tell from Wednesday to Friday.