Opening ceremony set for Friday; competition gets underway Saturday
The Bahamas’ 80-member CARIFTA team is now through two days of practices, and Head Coach John Ingraham likes the direction that they are headed in. He said he is looking for nothing other than top performances from each of the 80 members of the squad, representing The Bahamas at the 50th Oaktree CARIFTA Games which is set for this holiday weekend, April 8-10, at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.
Following their afternoon practice yesterday, Ingraham said everything is coming together like it should be and there are no major concerns.
“When you look at this team, you would see talent across the board and we’re at home in front of our crowd so that in itself is an added boost for us to go out there and perform well. We’re coming out with full force,” he said. “I’m proud of this team already. They have competed hard all season and just to make this team was a challenge that they all overcame. I have no doubt that they will go out there and represent The Bahamas very well.”
The archipelagic nation of The Bahamas is well represented with about a dozen athletes from Grand Bahama, two from Andros, one from Moore’s Island in the Abacos, and the remainder from the capital New Providence. More than half of the members are first-time CARIFTA athletes.
“It’s like they were friends all along. I’ve seen friendships form already. The camaraderie is definitely there and they are all getting along very well. That’s the nature of Bahamians. We tend to make friends wherever we go, and this team coming together is no different. The kids are getting along very well and they are showing that love,” said Ingraham.
Male team captain Carlos Brown said he learned a lot from his experience at CARIFTA in Kingston, Jamaica, last year, and he’s ready to leave it all on the track this year. He will be competing in the under-20 boys 100 meters (m).
“I feel very good, just focused on what I need to do which is to go there and win,” said Brown. “Everyone has a good understanding of what we need to do so it’s not hard keeping them together and focused. They all know that the country is depending on them to perform well and they are ready to compete. I learned a lot from my experience from a year ago and I’m expecting better this year. The times out there are tough but I feel like it will only cause me go faster and run a personal best. I feel like I have a shot to win and that is what I’m going after.”
Calea Jackson is also back for another run, competing in her second CARIFTA Games. She finished fourth in the under-20 girls discus, just missing out on a medal. This year, she will compete in under-20 girls discus and shot put events.
“I’m very excited. I feel like I have a lot to prove this year, so I’m just going to go out there and give it my best and let the chips fall where they may,” said Jackson. “To have CARIFTA here in my hometown is a good feeling. A lot of my family and friends who haven’t had an opportunity to see me compete at this level will get a chance to do so. I’m real excited about that.
“More than half of us are first-time CARIFTA athletes and we still have a lot of growing to do together, but we will get there. We’ve had a few practices by now and there is still time to integrate, especially when we get into the village. I have no doubt that we will all get along very well,” added Jackson.
The Games Village at Breezes Bahamas will officially open on Thursday. Over 600 athletes are expected to compete in the 50th Oaktree CARIFTA Games. Team Bahamas is practicing twice per day every day – at 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. – and Head Coach Ingraham likes their chances.
“Our strengths will be the throws and our weaknesses could possibly be in the hurdles, but that’s only because we don’t have a full team in the hurdles. I feel like we’re going to have a good challenge in the sprints but the guys are focused and ready to go. They know what they have to do. I feel like our kids are going to pull through in some form or fashion and win medals for The Bahamas. We are talented across the board and you will see some great performances,” said Ingraham.
A couple of well-respected and well-accomplished women in the community, Beverly Wallace-Whitfield and Pauline Davis, took time out to speak to the athletes yesterday.
Wallace-Whitfield admonished the youngsters to respect the national anthem and the national flag, to treat our guests with respect and courtesy but be fierce in competition, and eat properly and represent The Bahamas well on and off the track.
“Remember when you get out on the track and in the field, you are there to compete. When you get out there and represent The Bahamas, you do so to the best of your ability,” she said.
Davis encouraged the athletes to give their best effort and to never quit, giving an example of when she ran the anchor leg for The Bahamas’ under-20 girls 4x400m relay team and led them to victory past Jamaica at the 1984 CARIFTA Games – the last time The Bahamas won CARIFTA track and field. Davis ran down almost every competitor in that race and led The Bahamas to victory, winning the Austin Sealy Award for the most outstanding athlete of the CARIFTA Games. She won the under-20 girls 100 and 200m and anchored the 4x400m relay team to gold. The Bahamas ended the meet tied with Jamaica in gold medal count at 19, but had more silver, 22-9, enabling the host country to win the meet as the top nation.
One of those young athletes looking to follow in Davis’ footsteps is Jamiah Nabbie. She will be competing in the under-17 girls 100 and 200m and the long jump events. She said she has changed her diet and is taking more vitamins in preparation for competition.
“I want to push past my limits and just give it my best in all three of my events. I’m very excited. I just want to go out there and prove myself. I can’t worry about what’s out there. At the end of the day, I still have to do the race, so that is what I’m focused on,” she said.
Like Nabbie, Kenny Moxey Jr. qualified in three events for the CARIFTA Games. The 16-year-old Queen’s College student-athlete will compete in the under-17 boys 110m hurdles and long jump events.
“I’m ecstatic,” he said. “I feel like I have the experience of last year and that will help me this year. I’m prepared to go out there and give it my best, jump as well as I could jump and run as well as I could run. Right now, I’m just focused on what I need to do. I know most of my teammates already, and it’s real cool to get to know them on a more personal level. Everyone is just focused on what we need to do. I feel we will all do well.”
Team Bahamas is practicing twice per day every day leading up to the opening ceremony on Friday, gearing up for what is one of the more anticipated CARIFTA Games in the history of the event. This is the 50th edition of the CARIFTA Games and also the 50th Independence year of The Bahamas. The Bahamas is hosting the CARIFTA Games for a record ninth time and looks to perform at an ultimate level.
Teams from the around the region will begin arriving at the Games Village by Wednesday. The technical meeting for coaches and team delegates will be held on Thursday and the opening ceremony is set for Friday starting at 4 p.m. at the Thomas A. Robinson stadium. It is free of charge.
Competition gets underway on Saturday morning.
Tickets for CARIFTA itself can still be purchased online at www.carifta50.com or in person at the box office at the Thomas A. Robinson stadium. Daily rates start at $5 and go up to as high as $50 for the VIP section. There are also tickets available for all three days that start from $40 for the bronze section and go up to $130 for the VIP section.