The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, along with the stake holders, held a press conference on Tuesday to announce plans for the 29th National High School Track and Field Championships. Photo: Derek Smith/BIS
By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
THE St Augustine’s College Big Red Machine will be out to defend their title as the Ministry of the Youth, Sports and Culture hosts the 29th edition of the National High School Track and Field Championships.
Held in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the three-day meet is all set to begin on Thursday at the Thomas A Robinson National Stadium and will conclude on Saturday.
Admission is free but both the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the National Sports Authority have warned the public that security will be fully enforced so they are asking patrons to put on their best behaviour.
Tim Munnings, the director of sports in the Ministry of Sports, said the championships come just before the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations hosts their final CARIFTA trials next week before the Games are staged here over the Easter holiday weekend.
“This is an exciting time for all of our track and field athletes throughout the country,” Munnings said. “We expect to see a number of athletes representing the best that the schools have to offer.” Rupert Gardiner, the meet coordinator, revealed that there will be a total of 67 schools, including 30 schools from Grand Bahama and the Family Islands, participating as they compete in the under-13, under-15, under-17 and under-20 divisions for boys and girls.
“When we first started this meet we always crowned an overall champion and so we want to bring that excitement back,” said Gardiner about the overall results. “We will crown the overall champions based on all of the divisions and we will also have a junior and senior high champions because we know not all of the schools can compete in ll of the divisions.”
While there were qualification standards set for athletes from New Providence and Grand Bahama to attain in earn their berths into the meet, Gardiner said they have made provisions host a total of 20 athletes and two coaches from the majority of the Family Islands in an attempt to allow them to compete.
Evon Wisdom, the Sports Director at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, said they are delighted to collaborate with the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture because it’s important to provide avenues for the Bahamian athletes to compete in.
He noted that their ministry is looking at producing a forum for the athletes to be able to represent the Bahamas at the international school team in various championships, including track and field.
“We would like to congratulate the 67 schools. We believe that is one of the highest numbers ever that has participated in this event,” Wisdom said. “In particular, we want to thank the Family Island schools that are participating.”
Out of the 67 schools, Mike Sands said it’s expected that some 900 athletes will compete in the meet when it starts at 9:30 am on Thursday and Friday with Saturday’s action getting underway at 3 p.m.
During the opening ceremonies on Friday, Sands said they are encouraging the schools to display their flags and their banners as the march pass take place in their efforts to showcase their school pride.
“We re encouraging those alumnus, as well as Family Island persons to come and support your various teams,” said Sands, one of the meet organizers. “Also, this event will serve as a Carifta qualifier.
“As you know the Carifta Games are several weeks away from us and as the host country, we are looking forward to putting forth a good solid Carifta team and we hope that a number of qualifiers will come out of this event.”
While the Big Red Machine seemed to be the team to beat, Sands said that schools like Tabernacle Baptist Academy, coming of their victory at the Hugh Campbell Basketball Tournament for senior boys, have thrown down the gauntlet that they will be out to add the track title to their list of accomplishments this year.
But he said there are other schools like the Queen’s College Comets and the CR Walker Knights, who are always tough and with the Carifta trials just a week ago, it adds to the excitement for the nationals.
“I can not speak on behalf of the BAAA, but with Carifta so close and we are hosting it, we would see a number of qualifiers come out of the meet,” said Sands, the immediate past president of the BAAA. “So we’re hoping that we will have a number of qualifiers because we are hosting Carifta this year.”
Sands also revealed that the meet will provide an incentive for the teams as the winners of the under-20 boys and girls 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 metre relays will get free accommodations to participate in the 124th Penn Relays, scheduled for April 26-28 in Philadelphia.
Superintendent Mark Barrett of the Royal Bahamas Police Force, said they will be out in full force to enforce the laws and advised the public to come out and enjoy themselves in the family atmosphere at the national event.
And Kevin ‘Chick’ Rolle, who heads the security team at the National Sports Authority, said they are urging the public not to bring their big bags for safety purposes. He noted that they will be screening the perimeter of the stadium to ensure that it is safe and sound.