Handel Roban anchors 4x100m for SVG Grammar School on Saturday, April 27, 2019.
Photo by Nelson A. King

In just three years competing in the illustrious Penn Relays Carnival at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Grammar School continues its impressive showing, striking gold in the marquee, 4x400m, heat on Saturday at the Franklin Field Stadium.

Competing in a race that comprised 11 other high schools in the United States and St. John’s in the Bahamas, the Grammar School eclipsed its competitors, winning its heat in 3 min., 24.90 sec.

The Grammar School dominated the race from the start, with Deron Edwards taking the lead, followed by Malik Ferdinand and Nellie Ambriton, in that order, and Handel Roban in the anchor role.

Roban extended the lead, spurred on primarily by Vincentians, who trekked primarily from New York, shouting from the massive stadium at the top of their voices.

Roban had snatched the gold medal in the 800m, in 1 min., 56 sec., in the Under 17 Category, at last year’s CARIFTA Games in the Bahamas.

Saturday’s win enabled the Grammar School to achieve the 31st ranking among 370 schools, which competed in the 4x400m heats. Last year, the Grammar School was ranked 47th overall in the 4x400m.

In the 4x100m heat the day before, the Grammar School team of Encozie Rodgers, Jadyn Delpesche, Deron Edwards and Malik Ferdinand, running in that order, placed second by clocking 44.66 sec.

Head Coach Rawlson Morgan told a reception Saturday night — at the Vincentian-owned Calabash Restaurant and Lounge, on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia — that his team was ahead in the first three legs in the 4x100m but was hampered by a “glitch” in the anchor leg.

“It took one glitch,” he said. “But stuff happens.”

Later, Morgan told Caribbean Life, in an exclusive interview, that the Grammar School’s performance was remarkable.

“Overall, I’m very pleased,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for more. It’s our very first plaque in the three years that we’ve come here.”

Earlier, at the reception, Morgan noted the “fast turn-over” rate of athletes at the Grammar school, stating that only two athletes from last year’s contingent competed this year.

He thanked the Vincentian-born, Philadelphia-based Penn Relays pioneer and coordinator James Cordice; the Brooklyn-based Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO); and Vincentian families — the Howells in Philadelphia and the Fridays in Brooklyn — for facilitating the team’s journey in the US.

But Morgan added that it is an arduous task in raising funds at home to compete in the Penn Relays.

“It’s not an easy task to come to Penn (Penn Relays),” he said. “It took the efforts of the PTA (Parent-Teachers Association at the Grammar School) and your contributions to be at the Penn Relays,” he told the reception.

He added that former Grammar School principal, Curtis King, who made the trip for the third time, has also been very supportive.

Among others, King was grateful to the Brooklyn-based group, Club St. Vincent, Inc., for helping to raise funds, through an annual walk-a-thon at Marine Park in Brooklyn, to help defray expenditures.

He also singled out Cordice for his herculean efforts.

“Our participation provides us with a golden opportunity to compete,” King said, adding that it was through Cordice’s efforts that the Grammar School was able to compete among top schools in the US and the Caribbean, including Jamaica.

Asked about the Grammar School’s performance, Cordice told Caribbean Life said, that though he was very elated, he was not surprised.

“I expected that,” he said. “After all the hard work, I believed the youngsters will produce a harvest, where they are doing their jobs on and on the field. And this is what we hoped for.”

Stating that sports is “an avenue for your future life,” COSAGO president Laverne McDowald-Thompson, told the athletes at Saturday night’s reception that “when you come here, you’re are all winners.

“You make us proud,” she said. “We’re (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) small, but we’re a very proud people.

“I encourage you to use sports to do something for your lives,” McDowald-Thompson added.

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