Popularly known in Jamaica as Champs, the Boys’ and Girls’ Championships—held annually and put on by the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA)—are the largest high school track and field event in the world. Given this, you know that it is a big deal not only because it involves track and field in Jamaica, but also due to the fact that this five-day athletics extravaganza is sitused at the National Stadium in Kingston. What’s more, Champs undoubtedly serves as the proving ground for Jamaica’s best track and field athletes in preparation for professional competition at the international level, such as at the World Championships and World Olympics.
But of course, there is no guarantee that their talents will shine through right away as, for example, triple Olympic champion and the world’s fastest sprinter on record, Usain Bolt, along with Veronica Campbell-Brown and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce suffered demoralizing defeats in the lower age groups at Champs before later prevailing and dominating for their respective high school teams. And for those who do not reach the world stage of track and field, many receive college scholarships abroad either as a result of shining bright at Champs or by outpacing their competition at the venerable Penn Relays—another marquis track and field event—which takes place annually at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, USA roughly a month after Champs concludes. And aside from what takes place on the field, Champs in Jamaica is like a virulent fever that runs through everyone’s blood during the five-day event. From the fanatical fans—who tend to be all decked out in whacky outfits—cheering on their teams to even a recent Miss Universe Jamaica pageant finalist spotted striking a pose at Kingston’s bustling Pegasus Hotel. Then, of course, there is the festive stadium atmosphere surrounding Champs as the photo highlights below go to show.
In recent years at Champs, it has become apparent that a rivalry in competition has been brewing between the Calabar and Kingston College (KC) boys—both powerhouse running schools. Oftentimes, the Calabar and KC seating sections are the stadium are the liveliest, most animated and rambunctious. After losing to Calabar in successive years by finishing in 2nd or 3rd place, KC finally got over the hump this year and reigned supreme at Champs on the boys’ side while Edwin Allen girls’ squad—propelled by phenom sprinter, Kevona Davis—continued their domination to take home the trophy.