Schoolers stay home

Published: Thursday | July 12, 2012 Comments 0
Chanice Porter
Chanice Porter
Chrisann Gordon
Chrisann Gordon
Ashinia Miller
Ashinia Miller

Hubert Lawrence, Gleaner Writer

High school athletes have qualified for almost every Jamaican Olympic team from 1964 until now. Ever since Rupert Hoilette, Una Morris and Neville Myton earned spots on the team to Tokyo in 1964, their trailblazing footsteps have inspired high schoolers from age to age.

Now, after a trial that brutalised experienced aces and newcomers alike, no high-school athletes will compete for Jamaica in London.

Very few schoolers even tried to make the big team. Ashinia Miller of Calabar High and Simoya Campbell of Spalding High, pinpointed in this space months ago as having Olympic potential, chose to go to the CAC Junior Championships instead.

Two who did try fell short. Chris-Ann Gordon, Holmwood's Pan-Am Junior 400m champ, produced a seasonal best of 52.40 seconds in a failed effort to reach the trials final. It shouldn't have been a surprise. Jamaica have never been stronger in the women's 400.

Chanice Porter, the World Youth champion from Manchester High, took her chances in the wide-open women's long jump. She, too, fell short, but probably gained experience that will help her in this week's World Junior Championships.

In this space earlier in the year, I'd included high jumper Kimberly Williamson as one of my high schoolers with Olympic possibilties. She, too, was among the missing.

In a nation preoccupied by the Olympics, this break in tradition probably won't cause too much deep consideration. I don't know if too many people will figure that our juniors are weaker than ever. For all I know, they might conclude that our seniors are so good that juniors would have to be extraordinary to make the Olympic team.

At least temporarily, gone are the days when Morris in 1964 and Raymond Stewart in 1984 not only made the team, but also went all the way to their respective Olympic finals.

Juniors excluded

Make no mistake. The expansion of opportunities to train at home has strengthened the ranks of local-based seniors. That means it IS tougher for high school athletes to cross London Bridge.

Stay-at-home training means that more good prospects are within close reach. When they leave school, they go to quality coaches who continue the work started in high school.

That may be one reason that high-school athletes were shut out of the team to London. Before 1986, there was another reason. That's when the World Junior Championships were first held. Before then, the Olympics were the only really big meet for young prospects to target.

Since then, when the World Juniors and the Olympics occur in the same season, the best Juniors might just content themselves with meeting and beating their international peers.

Who really knows if Miller, Campbell, Porter et al would have treated the trials differently if there were no World Juniors. Who knows if Hoilette, Morris, who finished fourth in the 1964 Olympic 200 final, and Myton would have trained differently had there been a World Junior Championship in their day. Along with Stewart in 1984, they might all have been World Junior champions.

So few of our best high-school student-athletes even tried to make the Olympics that it is worth the trouble to find out why. For many, the conflict between the trials and CAC Juniors was the problem.

For others, making the Olympic may have seemed like Mission Impossible. Take the men's 100, for instance. Kemar Bailey-Cole ran 10-flat for fifth. No Jamaican schoolboy has ever run faster than 10.11 seconds.

The fastest time at the National Junior Championships - 10.28 by Jevaughn Minzie of Bog Walk High School - suggests that there was no point in trying.

Perhaps things will return to normal for would-be high-school student athlete Olympians in time for the 2016 trials. Maybe making the effort will make sense by then.

Hubert Lawrence has been covering athletics since 1987.

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