The 2015 staging of the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls Athletics Championships marks the 105th anniversary of the nation’s premier sporting event. Each year produces its own stars, some of whom are fortunate enough to dominate as they progress from class to class. Some stars have shined so brightly that they are still being talked about today, years after their amazing feats. Today, we flashback to eight of these stars.
Trevor Campbell – The Kingston College legend, popularly known as TC, is one of the most decorated athlete in Champs history. Competing during the ‘purple’ years (1962-75), he won two Class Championships and 14 events. He was undefeated in individual 200m, 440 yards and 400m, 880 yards and 800m races, setting new records in the 440 yards/400m and 880 yards/800m events. He was also a staple of all the relay teams. His only defeat came in a 4×440 yards relay as he ran out of gas and could only manage third.
After representing Jamaica at the 1972 Olympics, TC opted out of his final year in class 1 in 1973 to take up a scholarship at the University of Southern California. His senior career was hampered by injury and ended early. However, he is still a part of Jamaica’s athletics development as a member of the management teams that accompany our athletes to international events.
Vilma Charlton – Her class 2 sprint double led St Andrew High School to its only Champs victory in 1962. Although they lost the crown the following year, she was still doubly victorious in class 1 and her performances landed her a spot on the Olympic team at 17 years old. She made history as part of Jamaica’s first-time entry in the 4x100m relay.
Charlton won several medals at the British West Indies Championships, Commonwealth Games and Pan-Am Games. She went on to study Physical Education at Pepperdine University in California later a masters in Education. She lectures in PE at the University of the West Indies and has written a booklet entitled Helpful Hints for the Track and Field Official and co-authored the book Physical Education for Primary Schools with Edith Allen and Joyce Taylor.
Winthrop Graham – One of Jamaica’s premier quarter milers, Graham sizzled to the 400m/400m hurdles double at the 1985 Champs. The St Elizabeth Technical High student had suffered a dubious disqualification in the 400m hurdles the previous year and avenged himself by setting a new record of 51.7 seconds. He went on to win two Olympic silver medals – with the 4x400m relay team in 1988 and 400m hurdles in 1992. He also won the World Championships 400m hurdles silver and 4x400m relay bronze in 1991 and another bronze in the 400m hurdles in 1993.
Rupert Hoillett – Still a KC student, Hoilett – along with fellow students Una Morris (Kingston Tech) and Neville Myton (Excelsior) defied conventional wisdom and made the 1964 Olympic team. He was also given the honour of carrying the nation’s flag. Hoilett had made his mark a year earlier when he ran 49.3 seconds to win the 440 yards race, the first sub-50 clocking recorded in the event at Champs. He returned to anchor the 4×440 yard relay team to victory in its Champs debut. His Champs ’64 time of 49.1 seconds qualified him for the Olympic team. The next year, following the extended 64 season, his preparation was hampered by injury. Nonetheless, he defended his title in spectacular fashion, breaking the 49 and 48 second barrier to clock a staggering 47.9. However, he had run even faster just after the Games, 47.1 seconds.
Hoilett and his peers ran on dirt and grass tracks and over 440 yards, which is a little longer than the 400m. Using the yard-to-metre conversion system, his 47.9 time would be reduced to 46.4. Using the grass-to-synthetic track factor of 1.5 seconds, it would be 46.3. Only Javon Francis, Usain Bolt, Leford Green and Michael Campbell have ever run faster at Champs. With the same conversion systems, his post-Olympic 47.1 becomes 45.6. Only Francis (45 flat), Davian Clarke (45.21) and Bolt (45.35) have run faster as juniors.
Lennox Miller – Another KC star, Miller stamped his class on Champs by winning the class 1 sprint double three years in a row, from 1963-65. He ran the anchor leg for Jamaica’s 4x100m relay team, which broke the world record twice at the 1968 Olympics (38.65 and 38.39 seconds in the heats and semis, respectively). The team could only manage fourth place in the finals, but he left Mexico City with a silver medal in the 100m. Four years later, he would win bronze in the same event. His daughter Inger (USA) is also an Olympic medallist, making them the first father/daughter duo to win Olympic medals. Miller passed away in 2004 at the age of 58.
Beverly McDonald – Inspired by Merlene Ottey, McDonald became one of the biggest Champs star for Vere Technical High School during their 15-year stranglehold on the trophy. Her class 3 100m and 200m records were ahead of their time. In 1986, her class 2 double proved the key to holding off the strong St Jago team. That year at the CARIFTA Games, she clocked 23.90 seconds in the 200m, becoming the first under-17 athlete to do a sub-24 seconds time. Although she didn’t win the class 1 double, losing the 100m to St Jago’s Michelle Freeman, she became the first Jamaican, male or female, to reach a World Junior Championships 100m final.
McDonald helped Jamaica to victory in the 4x100m relays at the 1991 Pan-Am Games and the World Championships. The team of McDonald, Ottey, Dahlia Duhaney and Juliet Cuthbert set a national record of 41.94 seconds that stood for 13 years. In the ensuing years, she added the 1997 World Champs 4x100m silver (with Cuthbert, Merlene Frazer and Beverly Grant), CAC 200m gold, 1999 World Champs silver, 2000 Olympics 200m bronze and 4x100m silver (with Tayna Lawrence, Veronica Campbell and Ottey) to her collection. Her biggest moment came in 2004 when she utilized her curve-running skills to help Jamaica win the 4x100m gold. Unfortunately, her legacy has been tainted by an implicated as a steroid user by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) at an arbitration hearing held for her husband, former Jamaica Olympian, Raymond Stewart.
Una Morris – Nicknamed ‘Legs’ by none other than National Hero Sir Alexander Bustamante, Morris used those long limbs to carve out a successful Champs career and become the most outstanding female sprinter in the pre-metrics era. She had a difficult childhood, losing her mother at the age of 10 and skipping from school to school between St Elizabeth and St James for three years. Her academics suffered, but her love for running would soon be her salvation. After convincing her strict father to send her back to Kingston, she first met Eileen Sutherland, a Jamaican javelin record holder who would become her mentor and mother figure. Bustamante saw her run at the Elletson Road Police Depot meet and was so impressed, he demanded to meet her. They developed a lasting bond and he had her enrolled at Kingston Technical High School.
She arrived at Girls’ Champs in 1964 and immediately stamped her class on the proceedings in the 110m and 220m events. Her time in the latter became not just a Champs record but the national mark. She made the Olympic team and placed fourth in the 200m final. The following year, she added the 80m hurdles to her resume and continued her dominance, setting new records in each. Now Dr Una Morris-Chong, she was named Sportswoman of the Year for 1964 and 1965, In 2001, she was honoured by the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA).
Jacqueline Pusey – Hailing from Islington, the ‘lady locomotive’ helped St Mary High School to back-to-back Girls’ Champs victories in 1976 and 77. She began her athletics training with the late Douglas Clarke of the Green Archers Youth Club as a child and had her first taste of international success at the 1974 Junior CAC Games as a member of the winning 4x400m team. She also clocked 23 seconds flat hand timed at a 1975 meet in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
By the time Pusey really arrived on the Champs scene in 1976, she was already the rising star of Jamaican sprinting. She won the class 2 100m/200m double in record times. Her 12.0 seconds in the 100m equalled the class 1 record and her 23.9 in the 200m was faster than the class 1 time. She made the Olympic team that year, making the 200m semi-finals and anchoring the 4x100m relay team to sixth place.
- Yohan Blake
- Usain Bolt
- Veronica Campbell-Brown
- Lindy Delapenha
- Anneisha McLaughlin
- Merlene Ottey
- Donald Quarrie
- Raymond Stewart
- Melaine Walker
Source: Champs 100: A Century of Jamaican High School Athletics 1910-2010 by Hubert Lawrence