It took seven years and much prodding, but the St. Vincent Grammar School, the island nation’s oldest, and, arguably, most elite boys’ secondary school, has finally entered a team to compete in the internationally-renowned Penn Relays Carnival at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
“I believe that we are as prepared as [we] can be, even though some of the boys are yet to embrace the level of maturity that is necessary for a competition of this level,” said the school’s head coach Rawlson Morgan in an exclusive Caribbean Life interview. “We, like all other teams, are hoping to do quite well, even to get to the final.
“The guys [athletes] are very excited,” added Morgan, who, along with the principal-headmaster, Curtis King, and athletic department head Suzanna-Marie Leigertwood-Olliviere, will be among the school’s 13-member contingent at the Penn Relays, the oldest and largest collegiate athletic meet in the United States.
“For most of the guys, this will be their first international competition; and, for others, it’s their first time out, so you can understand the level of excitement being exhibited by all,” Morgan said.
He noted that St. Vincent Grammar School, despite its prestige and influence, will follow the footsteps of Thomas Saunders Secondary School, which made history seven years ago by being the first and only secondary school in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to participate in the Relays, held annually at Philadelphia’s Franklin Field.
Morgan lamented that greater and competing interests, primarily financial, prevented the grammar school from not venturing out to the games before.
“We did not think that it was a priority,” he said, adding that “the amount of money it costs to send a team to Penn could have been better spent on more urgent needs. I also felt that you must have a team that is just not going to be there but be competitive enough to be there.”
Nevertheless, Morgan said the eight athletes, who will compete in the large school category — Thomas Saunders will compete in the smaller school category because of the size of its student body — “have worked really hard and have shown that they deserve to be there.”
He said his athletes have been in training since last August.
“We started out with 24 and have reduced that number to the final eight [that] we will be bringing [to the Penn Relays],” Morgan said. As part of the preparation, he said the athletes took park in a number of “time trials” and local competitions, including relays. There were “pep talks,” fundraising ventures and discussions with past Relays competitors “to help prepare the boys mentally.”
“When I look at the performances of the team — from the time we started out to where we are now — I believe that we should do well, once all is well,” he said.
“So, I believe that the nation is happy, and it all augurs well for the country that not one but now two teams are representing it at the Relays,” Morgan added.
King, the head master, agreed, saying: “The nation feels a sense of pride knowing that the students are going out to fly the flag of SVG [St. Vincent and the Grenadines].”
As it has done since the SVG-Penn Relays effort was initiated in 2011, the Brooklyn-based Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO), the umbrella Vincentian group in the US, will be organizing a busload of nationals, on Sat., April 29, the final day of the three-day meet, to give boisterous support to the St. Vincent Grammar School and Thomas Saunders Secondary School athletes.
The St.Vincent school traveling contingent for the Penn Relays includes: athletes – Zwicka Charles, GianLuca Da Silva, Javon Rawlins, Jevonie Lavia, Sage Primus, Ethan Myers, Rasheed Fontenelle and Randolph Richards; head of delegation King; Morgan; manager Leigertwood-Ollivierre; and parent/chaperones Maureen Lavia and Susan Samuel.
The Thomas Saunders Secondary School athletes are: Zenron Chance, Maurice Foster, Immanuel Henry, Joel Jack, Atiba Lewis, Inglis Daniel and Aaron Hazell; and coach Harry; assistant coach Javed Marksman; and manager/chaperone Farrah Bailey.
Cordice said former Thomas Saunders athlete Brandon Valentine-Parris, the program’s first Olympian, will be honored during a gala reception for the Vincentian athletes and supporters, after the conclusion of the games, on the evening of April 29, at the Vincentian-owned Calabash Restaurant and Catering House on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia.