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Jan 28, 1998

Belize district athletes compete

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Coming off a less than stirring performance in last month’s Central American Games you’d think that morale among Belize’s athletes, coaches and officials would be at low ebb. And perhaps it is, but that doesn’t mean that all is lost, as today the nation’s next generation of medal contenders demonstrated their skills at the national stadium.

It’s not exactly what you’d call school work, but these students don’t mind at all. They gladly abandoned the classroom this morning as part of preparations for the National Track and Field meet next month. Upper level students from eight primary schools in the Belize District competed against each other at the National Stadium to select finalists for the games which include, high and long jump and four by eighty relay races for both boys and girls. But while organizers are happy with the level of achievement, Merlie Dillett of the National Sports Council, says not all schools were enthusiastic about the event.

Merlie Dillett, Dir. P.E. & Sports, Primary Schools

“The kids that are here are most excited to be a part of this event. But we are a bit disappointed in that some of the schools did not take part and some of the schools have individuals who we are sure would do some good time out here and they didn’t send them but the ones that are here know the importance and they are doing their very best.”

Nelson Hyde, President, Belize Amateur Athletics Association

“We hope that they learn the positive of hard work and the end result is always good as the training program provided for them are similar to a school class, where you have a test at the end of every session. This is their test today.”

A test which these twenty two boys and girls passed with flying colors and will now head on to the nationals on February thirteenth. And for a couple of them, even on to Honduras for regional competition.

Merlie Dillett

“First of all what I must say is that in the past the Belize district team has dominated in the nationals and most of these people have qualified to go on to Central America and they’ve done well. We’ve had a few of them who have done record time, did record event.”

One such athlete is Jaheed Smith of Grace Primary School, who currently holds the Central American Record in the 80 meters sprint.

Jaheed Smith, Central American Record Holder, 80 m sprint

It?s a lot of hard work but they told us before that we have things like this, so we train very hard to do our best.”

But its not easy for these up and coming athletes to keep putting their best foot forward. President of the Amateur Athletic Association Nelson Hyde says the lack of proper training facilities is a cause for concern.

Nelson Hyde

“He is also a cause for worry for us because we see great things for him, but its not going to be great things if he has to stay in Belize to work-out on this facility we have here, its going to limit his development.”

And Hyde’s fears were confirmed not long after the interview as Smith injured his leg during an attempt in the long jump, forcing him to sit out the rest of the day.

Nelson Hyde

“We are lobbying locally and internationally to try to get resources to put a rubber cover on the cement surface you see out here, that will greatly, greatly allow development to really, to leap frog over some of our other problems. We would leave the other problems alone if we had a track.”

Until that goal is achieved, the next generation of athletes will continue to take a beating physically in pursuit of their dreams. Patrick Jones, for News Five.

Next month’s countrywide finals will also be held at the National Stadium.

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