The Tabernacle Falcons turned in another top notch year, which was highlighted by a number of successes.
The admirable performances from the Falcons continued three weeks ago when a few of the athletes took part in the 2018 American Athletic Union (AAU) Track and Field Club Championships held in Orlando, Florida.
Typically, the track and field season in the country for high school athletes begins August 1 with off-season training. Late December serves as the time athletes generally begin to compete until the close of the season which comes in July each year. In that light the Falcons put the finishing touches on their season leading into their off-season training expected to begin this month.
Six of the Falcons’ track and field athletes put their best forward against the best athletes the United States’ east coast and South America had to offer.
In total, eight medals were picked up by the Falcons - four gold, one silver and three bronze. Three of those gold medals came by way of boys Under 13 competitor Lynden Johnson. Johnson snagged gold medals in the long jump, triple jump and 100-meter hurdles. Johnson also hauled away the bronze in the high jump.
Mateo Smith added the fourth gold medal in his specialty, the Boys’ Under 15 long jump. He also hauled away the bronze in the Boys’ Under 15 High Jump and finished fifth in the 100m.
2018 CARIFTA Boys’ Under 17 High Jump silver medalist Tyler Missick came away with a brozne medal in the event this time around. Under 17 girls’ competitor Damasvia Dames snagged the silver medal in the triple jump.
Stephanique Dean came away with an eighth place finish in the Under 15 Girls 100m Dash and Under 20 boys’ jumper Keanno Kemp mustered a sixth place finish in the long jump.
Overall, head coach Nickito Johnson expressed how proud he was of the job the athletes had done and was happy see that each contestant reached personal marks they set for themselves.
“I am very proud of the kids. They worked hard all year and this late in the season. They met personal marks and even in some cases established new personal bests, says a lot about the program,” said Johnson, “All the kids did well, but Lynden Johnson stood out at the meet. He was a real trooper. In fact, on his first day of competition, just moments before he was set to compete, he found out that he had lost a relative. I remember him calling his cousin’s name and saying, this one for you.”
The Falcons’ latest run was just an addition to the banner year the Falcons have become accustomed to. With another All-Island High School Track and Field championship to boast to more than a handful of athletes selected to the CARIFTA team, Johnson expressed that it’s not all about accolades, but ensuring the athletes remember the importance of a quality education.
With five top tier athletes on their way to College - Johnathon Smith (Garden City Junior College), Holland Martin (South Plains College), Daniesha Curry (Grambling State University), Javan Martin and Karon Bain at Texas Southern University - the Falcons trekked into the 2017-2018 season.
“I was very happy with what he achieved with those group of kids over the years and my happiness really comes when I see them excelling academically to pave their own way.’
Johnson noted that it was important to ensure the athletes did not get complacent as they ventured into last season. As returning high school champions locally, Johnson was sure to remind his sprinters, throwers and jumpers of the target they had on their backs.
“Listen, we are not bragging. But when you have won five straight titles, you cannot get complacent. Coaches and teams want to take you down, and you have to be prepared,” explained Johnson, “After every Island Sports I go through the results with a fine tooth comb. I look for areas where we need to improve, and areas where the opponents put in some work. I look at the team for the next season and I look at the other schools’ list of athletes. And I do this pretty much about four times in the months to follow. Nothing should be taken for granted. If you do not do your homework, you will get beat, it’s that simple.”
When it was all said and done this past February, the Falcons finished closely in second to eventual Junior Division champs the Sister Mary Patricia Russell Panthers and ahead of the Jack Hayward Junior Stars. In the Senior Division, the Falcons trailed St. George’s for the first three days of competition, but that Friday, one of the big sprinting days, the Falcons would take the lead and never look back, capturing their sixth straight title.
Johnson added how tough it is for the Falcons to compete in the junior division each year, but nonetheless he was pleased with the team’s efforts all around.
“Competing in the junior division, it’s tough. Every year I can count the amount of bantams (Under 13) boys and girls we get on one hand. So it’s already a handicap. So basically, the under 15s have to carry the junior team and we put up a good fight.
“On the other hand, in the senior division, there are more events and more athletes available, and our squad sprints well.”
Still, even though faced with obstacles during the High School Track and Field Nationals the Falcons managed to finish third behind powerhouses St. Augustine’s College and Queen’s College.
“The organizing committee limits teams coming from Grand Bahama and the other family islands, but the schools in Nassau have no limits as to how many kids they can bring,” Johnson elaborated, “Secondly, if standards are set, who is making sure that the standards are met?
“We managed to take 45 athletes, half of which we had to pay for, and at the end of it all, we left our mark.”
The Falcons had seven athletes named to the CARIFTA Team, the meet which was held in New Providence over the Easter weekend. The Falcons’ Tyler Missick won a silver medal in the Under 17 boys high jump, and Terrance Jones sprinted to a bronze in the Under 17 200m.