THE popular saying, “A Ya So Nice”, reverberated around the school grounds of Calabar High yesterday morning as they celebrated their recent athletic success at devotions.
Chants of ‘C’bar, C’bar’ echoed around the auditorium, which was filled to capacity as the school, in its 100th year of existence, displayed the three major trophies won so far in the academic year.
Calabar swept the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys’ Athletics Championships last Saturday to add to the Schools’ Challenge Quiz and rugby titles which they celebrated in an emotional ceremony.
Calabar, established by the Jamaica Baptist Union in 1912 for the children of Baptist ministers and poor blacks and was named after the former slave port Calabar in Nigeria, couldn’t have written the script any better for its 100th Anniversary.
The green-and-black-clad boys from Red Hill Road who captured their 22nd lien on the Mortimer Geddes Trophy for Champs, copped a fine week in which they also won the Schools’ Challenge Quiz title for the fifth time, thus the double triumph called ‘Quamps’.
Rev Karl Johnson, chairman of the school’s board, whipped the hundreds of students, teachers and parents into a frenzy in his address.
“A ya so nice,” he blurted out to deafening cheers from the hornblowing, flag-waving students.
“From Thursday, we tun up the thing. But on Saturday, we bun up the thing,” said Rev Johnson, as the auditorium went wild with celebration.
“This is just the beginning because we’re targeting some coveted accolades and prizes, not just in sports, but academics too,” he added.
Major Lincoln Thaxter, principal of the school, did not announce a public holiday, but allowed the boys the freedom of extending their stay out of class long after devotions were completed.
“It has been good. It is very sweet. I can’t find superlatives to describe it. People forget that all along good things were happening. One item of bad publicity and people remember that,” Thaxter told the Jamaica Observer moments after the extended ceremony was completed.
The bad thing Thaxter was referring to was the bad publicity the school got from the rat-induced temporary closure of the school.
“What Champs, School Challenge and rugby have done for us at this time is to refocus people’s minds. The school has always been there producing good things, but among the good, sometimes there are unpleasant happenings.
“I believe this is what made the school so resolute. They wanted to regain whatever honour we may have lost and they went out and did their best and brought home the trophies,” he theorised.
Calabar, or ‘Rabalac’ as they are known on the streets when the school’s name is spelt backwards, also used the rat issue to good effect. If you spell rats backward, you get star, as explained by the students.
Calabar amassed 287.5 points, relegating their fierce rivals Kingston College (KC) into second place with 265, dethroned champions Jamaica College (JC) third on 220.5.
Omar Hawes, one of the assistant coaches, said this was well planned to coincide with their centenary year.
“This has been long in coming. We have gone to the war ground of athletics on quite a few occasions and dropped short, so we did a lot of work coming to Champs for the 100-year celebration,” said Hawes, who is also a police corporal and a former student of Calabar.
“It’s a great one because we will only be 100 years once, and to be a part of the coaching staff is a very good feeling,” he added.
Calabar, who won Champs four years ago in 2008, are second only to KC’s 31 titles and ahead of JC on 21 victories.
Class Two prodigy Michael O’Haro, who was named champion athlete after garnering 24 points, was overwhelmed.
“Winning the Champs for my school was a great achievement and I am overwhelmed,” said O’Haro, who won the 200m and the 110m hurdles.
O’Haro, who was also part of the Class Two 4x100m relay team and who ran a blistering leg on the mile relay team with a 47.3-second split, said he trained hard and was confident of performing well.
While O’Haro was arguably the top man on the track for Calabar, Fedrick Dacres was equally impressive in the field events, winning both the Class One discus and shot put in 60.43m and 18.32m, respectively.
“We had to win,” said Dacres, nodding his head. “I did my part, and we won.”
Dacres, 18, who qualified for the World Junior Championships in both events, said he was nonetheless a bit disappointed with his performances.
“I’m happy that I won, but I felt I could have gone more. I’m doing well so far, but I could have gone 19.5m or 20m in the shot put,” he noted, while promising to break the records next year at Champs.
The Calabar celebrations will continue today, and the principal is putting everything in place to have a parade around the surrounding communities.