Track and field was back in full force on the island of Grand Bahama as the Neymour’s Athletics Club (NAC): Christmas Odd Distance Fiesta delivered a full day’s schedule of races.
International athletes and local track and field talent descended upon the Grand Bahama Sports Complex on December 19, after a long break from competing due the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the meet’s biggest draw, Jamaican junior sprint sensation Briana Williams not competing at the event, the meet went on successfully and the remaining athletes showed up and performed.
After fielding many questions about Williams’ Coach Ato Boldon withdrawing her from the competition, Meet Director Jerial Forbes said briefly: “It was unfortunate that Briana was unable to run (in the 60 and 150 meters). However, some things were beyond my control pertaining to the ability to please her coach.”
However, Saturday’s meet gave parents and athletes a ton of excitement, especially when it came to the 300m competition.
As The Freeport News spoke with a few of the athletes after the completion of their races, each competitor was just grateful for the opportunity to compete safely under the health protocols.
Tavares Moss, who finished with the silver medal in the Boys’ Under-10 300m sprint shared that despite the long layoff everything felt “normal.”
“It felt normal but I was kind of scared because I don’t usually run the 300m. I almost came first but all in all the race was good.”
The Under-13 boys left it all on the track but in the end it was Neymour’s Athletics’ Zion Shepherd crossing the finishing line to claim the gold medal. In his post-race comments, Shepherd voiced it had been a long time coming and the race was much needed given the ongoing circumstances.
“I got out good. I just had to hold my pace until I got to the final 100m where I could let it all out and finish the rest of the race.
“It feels awesome to be back. I haven’t run in a long time and I needed that. It feels great.”
Falcons’ Athletics’ Joshua Williams took the silver medal and voiced that right now it is all about working on his starting technique out the blocks.
“I’m just working on my start. I didn’t get out as strong as I wanted and I didn’t finish that hard but this was my first race since March so all in all I’ll say today was good.”
Sashalee Forbes of Jamaica ran away with the girls’ Under-17 300m championship. This too was her first meet since the suspension of sports.
“The race was a bit tiring but overall it was okay. My first time back on the track wasn’t bad, but could have been better. Now I just have to keep training up until January and hopefully make my time to be a part of the 2021 Olympic Games.”
The Odd Distance Fiesta was the first international meet held on the island since the borders were closed earlier this year. Coach Forbes was pleased he and his board overcame the challenges they faced on day one and completed the event.
He also voiced that seeing the athletes excited to compete once again meant a lot to him and the track and field community at large.
“The NAC brand was able to put on the first international meet of the 2020-2021 track and field season in Grand Bahama since the pandemic started and the world economy was at a stand still. I felt it was imperative to work with the Ministry of Health directly, networking with Dr. Frank Bartlett to bring a safe, healthy and robust track and field meet for the athletes of Grand Bahama.
“Seeing the excitement on the youth athletes' faces as they were able to display their talent became the highlight of the meet for the track community.
“After technical issues delayed day one's three events, we were able to rectify the problem and have an amazing day two, which became an overall success.
“Coach John Ingraham, of Heats Athletics, the event's Meet Manager, ran the meet in excellent fashion on day two
“We would like to thank all our international competitors, and all the local talented athletes who came out, and made this event a success for Grand Bahama.
“This event has sparked the interest of almost every youth and junior program in the Caribbean, USA, Canada and the United Kingdom. When the world has the capability to unite fully, Grand Bahama is listed as the top destination to compete for athletes from so many diverse cultures.
“Grand Bahama is now labeled as one of the premier destinations for youth track and field.
“I am proud to be in a position to create this platform for my island after we have been through so much within the last two years. My goal will be to continue creating opportunities for Grand Bahama and Bahamian athletes looking to be on the forefront of the athletic world class stage.”
Forbes also thanked all the corporate sponsors who played a major role with the success of the meet.
Next up for the NAC will be the fourth annual Basil O. Neymour Memorial Track and Field Classic, slated February 12-13, 2021.