: Guardian : Nigel Simon : 08.02.2023
Anna-Lee Walcott, head coach of the defending overall champions of the Secondary Schools Track and Field (SSTF) Relay Festival, Toco Secondary says her athletes will be coming to give off their best effort despite being underprepared.
The Relay Festival makes a return today at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo from 1.30 pm after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic and for the first time will feature Caribbean representation in the form of two schools each from the world and regional track and field powerhouse Jamaica, along with Barbados and Guyana who will each be represented by two teams (Boys) and (Girls).
When the Championship was last held in 2019 at the Larry Gomes Stadium in Malabar, Toco Secondary School defended its title as the overall champion from 26 schools.
Toco Secondary contested all 29 events and tallied 236 points having won three events (Boys 4x800m Open, Mixed Under-13 4x100m, Mixed Under-13 4x200m), while Bishop Anstey High School (BAHS) was second with 180 points, and Queen's Royal College (QRC), third with 178 points.
QRC's ran away with the boys U-15 4x200m, Over-17 4x200m, O-17 4x100m, and O-17 4x400m to tally 178 points and the top position in the Boys Division with St Anthony's College second with 102 points, followed by Fatima College with 92 points while among the Girls' Bishop Anstey copped the title boosted by their gold medals in the U-15 4x200m, U-17 4x200m, and 800m sprint medley Open, ahead of Toco Secondary (118) and Arima Central Secondary (64).
This time around, Toco Secondary along with the 46 other local school teams will have to fend off the challenges of Christ Church Foundation (Barbados), Guyana Schools (Guyana), St Michael's School (Barbados), and the top schools from the Jamaica Boys and Girls Championships last year, Kingston College (boys), and Edwin Allen High (girls).
In announcing the plans for this year's event at a media briefing held on Monday, Joseph Brewster, president of the SSTF said there will be added treat for locals as the Edwin Allen High School will feature T&T's national athlete Natasha Fox who specialises in 400m and 400m hurdles, and hails from Point Fortin.
For the Relay Festival, Brewster said competition is expected to be contested in the 4x100m, 4x200m, 4x400m, and 4x800m and medley relays with winning relay teams in the 4x100m and 4x400m qualifying for the National Championships.
The Relay Festival this year also takes on an added bonus because the "Top Eight" schools at the Relay Festival will qualify to represent their schools in the Relays at the National Track and Field Championship carded for the Dwight Yorke Stadium, Bacolet, Tobago, March 1-2.
Speaking on the eve of the event Walcott, the aunt of T&T's two-time Olympic Games medal winner Keshorn Walcott said, "Our team is regrouping after the two-year COVID-19 lockdown and we will be going there and trying our best with what limited preparation we have been able to achieve".
She explained, "We have a lot of our athletes who weren't able to train due to a lack of resources being available to us.
"We have not had access to our playing field at Toco for the better part of two years and more because it was damaged during some construction that took place at the school, and we were not able to properly train and prepare our athletes.
Verona Davis-Modeste, Principal of Toco Secondary added: Our athletes have no field for training because it was during the construction of the temporary building to house students which was in 2021."
The field was not suitable for the athletes to train afterward as there were a lot of uneven areas and holes, which are dangerous to the athletes and while we have complaints to the relevant authorities about it on numerous occasions, our complaints have fallen on deaf ears.
So while we are normally among the contenders at these competitions, our expectations this time around are not that high, said Davis-Modeste.
In addition to the competition schools, some of the local clubs are also expected to send forward teams to compete at today's event.
2023 Secondary Schools Track & Field Relay Festival:
Overseas participants: Christ Church Foundation (Barbados), Edwin Allen High (Jamaica), Guyana Schools (Guyana), Kinston College (Jamaica), St Michael's School (Barbados)
Schools entered in meet manager so far:
Barataria North, Barataria South, Barrackpore West Sec, Blanchisseuse High, Cunupia, Diego Martin North Sec, Holy Cross College, Holy Name Convent (PoS), Iere High, Malabar Sec, Miracle Ministries Pentecostal High, Mt Hope Sec, New Butler Associates College, Presentation College (San F'do), Queen's Royal College, San Fernando West Sec, San Juan North Sec, St Anthony's College, St James Sec, St Joseph's College, Tranquility Sec, Williamsville Sec, Bishop Anstey High, Bishop's High Tobago, Bon Air High, Chaguanas North Sec, Fatima College, Mason Hall Sec, Mayaro, Northgate College, Pentecostal Light and Life, Roxborough Sec, San Fernando Central Sec, Sangre Grande Sec, Signal Hill Sec, Speyside Sec, St Benedict's College, St Francis Boys College, St Joseph Sec, Toco Sec, Trinity College East, Trinity College Moka, Union Claxton Bay Sec.