Tanya Lee | Calabar High’s magnificent five
This week, I sparked a heated discussion in the SportsMax office as I threw out the question of who are the top high-school athletes over the past 30 years. The criteria were simple. Who dominated, delighted, and brought glory to their institution with legions of fans in tow at illegal decibel levels in the National Stadium?
The list of outstanding boys sparked a heated debate among the various old boys who shared story after story about their past and present favourites.
A Kingston College old boy insisted that 400-metre sensation Davian Clarke had to make the list. He recalled how a young Clarke lit up Boys’ Champs in 1992, when he closed an impossible gap on the final leg of the 4x400m.
He was quickly silenced by a Jamaica College old boy, who reminded him that Jamaica College won that 4x400m thanks to anchorman Carl McPherson, who successfully staved off Clarke in the final 10 metres. Apart from McPherson himself, the likes of Rudolph Mighty, and Edward Clarke were listed as exciting and outstanding high school talents from Old Hope Road.
Not to be outdone, a Munro College man said that Jamaica was more than a sprint factory and distance running was best accounted for by Munro’s Aldwyn Sappleton, whose 1997 Class Two 800m record stood tall for all of 20 years. He added Jamaica’s first truly spectacular decathlete, Munro’s Claston Bernard, who went on to become Commonwealth Champion in 2002.
But maybe the biggest point of all was made by a couple of old boys from Red Hills Road who believe that both the golden and modern era of athletics undoubtedly belongs to Calabar High.
The Calabar duo was certain that Calabar had made the biggest contribution to Jamaica’s senior athletic ranks via Olympic pioneers Herb McKenley and Arthur Wint.
In the modern era, 2012’s Olympic bronze medallist Warren Weir was also part of an exciting sub-40 quartet that included Andrew Riley, Ramone McKenzie, and Oshane Bailey.
Calabar has produced some top-class athletes, with the likes of Dwight Thomas, Josef Robertson, Maurice Wignall, Tyreke Wilson, and De’Jour Russell during the modern era.
Calabar’s LONG LIST
So long is Calabar’s list of outstanding athletes that the team decided that I should highlight a Calabar top-five instead. Never one to shy away from a ranking, I’ve compiled the magnificent five who bring a smile to the faces of anyone who supports the green and black that is ‘Ralabac’.
For the purposes of my top five, forgive me, but I will group Calabar’s ace discus duo of Fedrick Dacres and Traves Smikle who I believe may eventually bring Jamaica her first Olympic gold in the field event. No pressure, gentlemen!
Calabar’s ace quarter-miler Javon ‘Donkey Man’ Francis consistently delivered stunning performances over 400m and makes the list in the fourth position. Francis delighted fans everywhere when he clocked 45 seconds to break Usain Bolt’s Class One 400m record in 2014.
Calabar’s Michael O’Hara is third on the list as he was easily one of the most sensational athletes in Champs history. He had a series of highs and lows in the green and black, but who can forget who he closed his Calabar résumé in “extraordinary fashion” after commanding performances over 100m, 200m, 110m Hurdles and 4x100m in 2015.
But the top spot goes to Calabar’s current sensation, Christopher Taylor. Taylor has been blazing the track for the last five seasons and has won the 400m in every class. Since Taylor has been at Calabar, the school has not lost a championship. Last year was magnificent for the youngster who clocked a commanding 10.11m over 100m. With guts in abundance, Taylor beat 2008 400m Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt at the Jamaica Invitational last May. ‘Cubby’ will likely hand Calabar an eighth-straight Champs title in March. Surely, if he does, he will secure his spot among, or above, the greats in Boys’ Champs history. Next week, let’s have a look at the girls.
Tanya Lee is a Caribbean sports marketer, author, and publicist. Follow her @tanyattlee on Instagram.