By Neto Baptiste
Deputy Director of Sports and former national athlete Evans Jones admitted that, for the past two years, minimal effort went into trying to host the annual Schools Athletics Championships outside of the YASCO Sports Complex, which has not been used since 2017.
Speaking on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show, Jones, who is part of the Ministry of Sports team charged with planning and executing the annual event, said they did not seek to host a scaled down version of the championships at another venue as anticipation was that resuscitation work at YASCO would have been completed in time for the hosting of the 2018 event.
“We [coordinators] were actually tired of being promised the completion of YASCO over and over again and even up to now, some athletes are saying that next year December [for the completion of the track] not even this year December and it has it’s psychological experience on these athletes as well so we never really pushed for it because we felt we should have already had the completion of YASCO since 2017 or 18,” he said.
According to Jones, other available venues are not suitable for the proper hosting of the event and would take away from the atmosphere usually present at YASCO.
“We have trained up at the Sir Viv stadium for about two months and we have had one of two keep fit meets there and the surface is not the best on which you would get performances because it is sand-based,” the deputy director said.
“Also, when you look at the intimacy of being at YASCO and then being at the ARG, the closeness of the spectators pumps energy into the athletes and not having the long jump because we could not have had the shot put or the javelin on YASSO either, this would have been very scaled down,” he added.
Work commenced at the country’s lone track and field facility in 2018 following a lengthy delay in the start to civil works.
Jones said the absence of YASCO has negatively impacted a number of the country’s student athletes who may never have the opportunity to represent their schools on the ministry’s biggest stage.
“Because of the fact that there wasn’t any YASCO available for the past three years now, it has actually turned a lot of athletes off because those who would have not made the standard for Carifta, they would have looked forward for the [competition] with the Inter-schools because you know that Inter-schools is one of the biggest sporting activities we have here in Antigua where schools competition is concerned,” he said.
“This is something that the athletes look forward to and when you look at schools like St Joseph’s Academy, Princess Margaret, Ottos Comprehensive and Clare Hall, those four particular schools always look forward to Inter-schools because of the principals they have behind them and also the coaches and the PE teachers. The staff that supports them, they always look forward to Inter-schools,” Jones added. Work on the laying of the surface has stalled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It is unclear as to when work will recommence.