MONTEGO BAY, St James — Hopes are high that western Jamaica schools will surpass last year's haul of 21 medals at next week's 102nd staging of the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls Athletics Championships set to be staged March 26-31 at the National Stadium.
Last year athletes from western Jamaica won five gold, nine silver and seven bronze medals, while nine boys and six girls' schools managed to score points during the meet, said to be one of the world's largest high schools track and field championships.
Expectations by a number of coaches from western Jamaica were that the number of medals could be doubled at the end of the championships next week Saturday night.
Twenty-two schools from western Jamaica have been registered to take part in the championships, that will see 223 schools taking part- 117 boys' and 106 girls' schools.
Among the medal prospects from western Jamaica are six athletes who were last week named on the team that will compete at the CARIFTA Games in Hamilton, Bermuda early next month.
Peta-Gay Reid of STETHS will defend the Class 1 girls high jump title, while Chantai Smith and Alethia McLaughlin; Odail Todd of Green Island in the Class 1 boys 100m and 200m; Munro College's Class 1 shot putter Emmanuel Onyia and Cornwall College's Ricardo McKenzie in the Class 2 800m, who will seek to be the first runner from the school to win a gold medal at 'Champs since Keith Spence Jnr won the Class 3 200m over 10 years ago.
Munro College's 200m World Leader Delano Williams will defend the Class 1 200m title in what is expected to be one of the feature events at the championships, as he will come up against Todd, the IAAF World Championships silver medalist, as well as Wolmers' Boys Odean Skeen and Bridgeport's Jazeel Murphy.
Munro College coach Neil Harrison told Observer West on Tuesday that he is expecting to surpass last year's 133 points, which saw them finish fifth overall.
He said conservatively they expect about 10 medals, six of which should come in the throwing events.
Milton Brown who coaches the St Elizabeth Technical girls and who was named on the CARIFTA Games coaching panel, targeted in excess of 105 points after scoring 63 last year and placing seventh.
Brown said he was expecting Reid and Class 2 jumper Opal James to win gold medals, while Smith and McLaughlin are expected to also feature among the medals in the middle distance events.
Green Island's coach Michael McIntosh is expecting the best ever showing from the western Hanover school, after they scored 10 points last year.
After a fast 40.50 seconds to win the Class 1 boys 4x100m at the Milo Western Relays, McIntosh said they will be chasing a gold medal at Champs.
After a solid showing at the Milo Western champs, Herbert Morrison's coach Claude Grant is expecting a better showing than last year, when they scored 49 points in the girls section.
IAAF World Youth and World Junior Championships 100m semi-finalists Seidatha Palmer is back to full health and will be a factor in the girls Class 1 sprints, while Renae Ambursley is expected to win a medal in the 400m.
On the boys side Gawain Williams who ran a wind aided 10.54 seconds to win the Class 2 100m at Western Champs, will be the standard bearer for Herbert Morrison.