BUSY SCHEDULE When Cavahn McKenzie died at the end of a 2014 cross-country race in Trinidad and Tobago, it was awful for St Jago High School. His teammates got the news as they contested the Gibson-McCook Relays and it crushed them. Their schoolmate, teammate and friend had left them for international duty and, tragically, never returned home. Unfortunately, the same kind of tragedy has visited St George’s College with the equally sad passing of their Manning Cup football captain, Dominic James. This time, there was a cruel twist as he died during a Manning Cup game, with spectators there to witness his last moments. Truly, for all present, it must have been a terrible moment. These gruesome things scarcely happen in sport which is entertainment for many. Yet, the grief felt by everyone has to jump-start new provisions to safeguard the health of athletes at every level. In this regard, the early announcement about heart-screening high-school student athletes becoming mandatory is most welcome. After McKenzie’s untimely passing in Trinidad and Tobago, Team Jamaica Bickle, that wonderful group of Penn Relay benefactors, has assisted with screening athletes and by donating machines – known as defibrillators – which are designed to restart hearts. This may have to become standard for high school, club and national sport. As a precaution, it may also be wise to extend the schoolboy football season into January. The present season squashes the Manning and daCosta Cup, the Walker Cup and Ben Francis KO and the FLOW Super Cup into a rapid-fire schedule that has teams playing three times in seven days, with complications if rainy weather intervenes. The schedule gets busy for the top teams, when the later stages of the Corporate Area Manning Cup and the rural area daCosta Cup commingles with the Super Cup and the Corporate Area Walker Cup and the rural area Ben Francis knockout competitions. The congestion is no one’s fault. There are far more eligible schools than in bygone days. Luckily, the solution is simple. The schedule could be relaxed by moving the Super Cup into January, the first month of the Easter term. That is a matter for another day. Right now, the Light Blues need our love and support. As with the St Jago case, James’ family and his teammates at St George’s College need counselling and the steadfast embrace of every Jamaican. At times like these, the only choice is to stand together. – Hubert Lawrence has made notes at trackside since 1980.
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