Prime time with NAPSAC

With all the zones finished and half-way to the quarters, Sporting World took some time to catch up with the National Primary Schools Athletics Championship chairman Wayne Robinson to speak a bit about the event under his charge.

Robinson, a senior coach with the National Sports Council for the last five years, has been the NAPSAC chairman for the last three including this one. Although his personal expertise is in the field of cycling, which he coached at the NSC for his first eight years there, Robinson is also now a part of the photo-finish team as well as his chairman’s role.

Wayne Robinson, chairman of the National Primary Schools Athletics Championship.
Wayne Robinson, chairman of the National Primary Schools Athletics Championship.

Meeting with him this morning we spoke about a few things, especially considering the new venue:

How has this year’s NAPSAC been proceeding?

So far they have been running smoothly. We expected a little bit of friction due to the change in venue, but otherwise it’s been business as usual. We try our best to make sure everything runs according to plan, we started a little rocky on the first day but progressively we have gotten better… every successive day our finishing time would have been earlier right down to the last zone.

Comment on some of the performances we have seen during the zones and some of the records that have fallen.

Well that’s standard every year, we expect to see a few records broken. Remember, however, the records that you have seen broken are zonal records. There is a difference between zone records and NAPSAC records or Championship records, so far no one has broken any Championship records and we expected that.

Within the zones the schools are very competitive, so during zonals they try really hard to qualify as many athletes as possible for the next levels, as the more athletes they take forward the greater their chance at winning the overall championship.

There are a lot of teachers and coaches that put in a lot of work with these kids so we expect records to be broken, but the mere fact that no championship records have fallen means there is still some ways for them to go.

What do you expect at quarters?

Most of the schools are chomping at the bit, everybody has the list of advances right now… as a matter of fact if you take too long to send them out people will call asking for them, because the schools are anxious to know who is going forward.

Obviously they are eager to use the two-week break to work and tweak their athletes for the best performances. From here on in it doesn’t get any easier. The lightest competition you will come up against is in your zone. After that you’re coming up against all the heavy hitters from the other zones.

It is common knowledge that no schools outside the biggest zones have ever won the championship.

The way I see it that can change but obviously somebody would have to put in a lot of work.

You have got some schools with rosters less than 100 whereas you have some schools with rosters of over 700 pupils. If you consider that ten per cent of the entire school body are talented athletes, then the school with 700 kids has a major advantage.

There is nothing we can we can do about that. I don’t think it is impossible for a smaller school to win the championships but they would have to put the work in.

An official getting the youngsters ready for one of their events.
An official getting the youngsters ready for one of their events.

Have there been any surprises or standouts for you during the zones?

To be honest in the photo finish we see the athletes but I really don’t have an opportunity to analyse their races as such. There are one or two who have still stood out in my mind . . . Roachim King from St Giles in the boys U7 50m ran 8.81 seconds and I would say was head and shoulders above the rest in terms of speed. In all five zones he was the only athlete in that event to go under nine seconds.

Are there any schools that have had huge performances?

St Stephens who have been consistent over the last four-year period, they won one and they managed second in the girls just last year. West Terrace have been perennial competitors so are Charles F Broomes, Bailey’s, and I think that those schools are all past winners.

What goes into the production of NAPSAC?

Only yesterday I was talking to one of my fellow committee members saying that one of the things I would really like is for people to appreciate the amount of effort that goes into NAPSAC behind the scenes, things like manpower, finances, just time.

It is a major effort, just gathering the information from the schools is a huge undertaking. We usually open the secretariat for two weeks prior to the event just to be able to accomplish the task in time.

With quarters, semis, and finals coming up what is your main focus?

The smooth running of the event. Pretty much after the zones it becomes a lot simpler because of the format. We can just concentrate now on the smooth running of the event and make sure we have all our ‘i’s dotted and ‘t’s crossed.

Do you expect championship records to be challenged?

Always. I don’t think there has been a NAPSAC in recent years where a couple have not fallen. I can’t say which, but I would be surprised if that wasn’t the case.

These things are affected not only by the way the athletes feel but by external factors, weather that kind of stuff. With anything when you are closer to the top it is always harder… it is a lot easier to break a zone record than to break a championship record.

What is NAPSAC for you?

Firstly an assignment…But seriously, I was not around when NAPSAC was started. I got into NAPSAC working with finish-line and then graduated quickly to photo-finish. I have a love for sport and technology and this merges the two so it’s a natural fit.

Is there anyone in your team for special mention?

There are lots of people… the entire organising committee, everyone has been hands to the plough… even more so with the change of venue. The technical officer must be commended I think he puts in more hours than anyone else. It’s really a lot of work and people don’t care to see the behind the scenes, they see the end product. We don’t pay a lot of the people who volunteer their time year after year and they still come. And we are really grateful for those people.

What would you like to see in the future for this event?

NAPSAC won and international award from the IOC in 2012 for sustainable development in sport. It is my legacy to see this event go to the next level and even gain more international recognition. I know these awards are not usually given to the same people twice, I would like to see this event get another one or be recognised by another international body for what it has been doing.

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