More than a Meet

More than just a Meet
By Clayton Clarke of Trinidad & Tobago
9th April 2011
Port-of Spain, Trinidad:

09/04/11:  Nevis Primary Schools Champs ..... more than just a sports meet !!

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The annual Gulf Insurance Nevis Primary Schools Primary Schools Championship is the most anticipated event on the Nevis sporting calendar.  The meet is also top on the cultural and social agenda with close to 6,000 of the 12,000 Nevisians attending. I made the trek to Nevis for the second year. As I arrived by ferry from St. Kitts I met a gentleman on board who indicated that he was sent to St. Kitts to get a purple coloured bucket in support of the defending champions, Joycelyn Liburd Primary School.  When I got to the Elquemedo Willett Park in Charlestown on April 6, the day of the meet, one of the persons I met was the purple bucket guy and his family who were all decked out in their purple colours from flag, to hat to hair piece and the bucket.

From the turnout at the 2011 meet, everyone seemed to be there. From toddlers to the grannies.  The island’s Premier Joseph Parry is always present.  Some were in their dressed in their ‘Sunday best’, with top hat, boots, you name it, I saw it. Under the brilliant Caribbean sunshine the resplendent colours of the nine competing teams shone across the park, lighting up the arid and pale turf. 
Last year they were two orange clowns (in support of Charlestown).  This year, jesters were the order of the day.  An injured leg did not prevent one of them from attending as she ensured she was present with the help of crutches.  Spectators also came from near and far. From the neighbouring Leeward Islands to Trinidad, Tobago and all the way from Sweden.  A Trinidadian delegation was here last year and came back with more persons. Some participants of the recently held Nevis International Triathlon even stayed on for the meet.  This year three Swedes journeyed to the island and visited all the competing schools before the start of the meet. At the hotel where I stayed two Antigua and Barbudian visitors were puzzled as the receptionist at the front desk was so distracted. It was only when one looked over at the computer and saw that the lady was glued to the screen, taking in the championship.

The food alley was another feature.  There was the usual array of menu and I ensured this time I joined the line to sample some of the local dishes.   The ‘Johnny Cake” and ‘Conkee’ (potato, pumpkin, cornmeal, and coconut) were my favorites. To quench my thirst I had a ‘Ting’ (a grapefruit soft drink).

This meet started just after 12:30pm with the parade of teams. The crowd was beginning to build. By 2:00 pm, the Western stand was a kaleidoscope of colours. Supporters from every school were present and persons were filling up the area near the finish line to get first-hand view of the close finishes that were to come.  Joycelyn Liburd came with a cheer leading section with pom-pom and mascot.  They entertained the crowd during the intermission (NFL/NBA style with a Caribbean flavor).  The half time acts also included a visiting Barbadian dance group.
Another feature was the presence of the island’s best photographers who handed over their shots to be posted on the website ( FREE OF CHARGE. There was live television coverage and Worldwide Internet streaming. Two radio stations were also live.

With all in place, the athletes were left to do their part and they did not disappoint.  The races were exciting, the finishes were breath-taking, the battles were intense and the desire to do their schools proud was evident.  Buoyed on by the energetic spectators, the young stars were straining every muscle on their faces and body in pursuit of glory.  Some of the best battles were interestingly enough for the minor places. I had to admire the commitment of the athletes as no one wanted to lose.

The Charlestown and St. Thomas’ athletes were proving to be worthy rivals for the Gingerlan- based Joycelyn Liburd School.  The bright orange of Charlestown and the bold green of St. Thomas were evident around the park as the flags went up with each race.

When it came around to the premier events, the 100m there was no standing room left.  St. Thomas’ stole the bragging right but by then Joycelyn Liburd had done the damage, sweeping all the boys 4x100m relays with a clinical display of baton exchanges, thanks to their head coach, Olympian Kurvin Wallace.

The fans waited for the final two events, the open 4x400m relays.  Charlestown claimed both races and there was a hush across the venues as the fans stood still in anticipation of the final point standings.  Joycelyn Liburd did it again and their fans erupted in joy, dancing and singing as they made their victory lap. The other supporters just continued to enjoy the great atmosphere as the curtains fell on another scintillating and remarkable Nevis Primary Schools Championship.

The planning for the 2012 event started the day following the meet.  Next year will mark 30 years overall and the 20th edition for Gulf Insurance continued sponsorship and with the commitment given by the sponsors Gulf Insurance, the International Association of Athletic Federation (IAAF) Area representative, Neville Mc Cook and the Nevis Island Administration, an IAAF certified - 400m all weather mondo track with a stadium may soon be coming.