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70 Years of TT National Championships

Bernard Linley :: 29.06.2016

For 70 years the National Championships have been a regular fixture on the local track and field calendar since the first edition, 6 April 1946 at the Queens Park Oval, Port of Spain, was organized by the Amateur Athletic Association of Trinidad & Tobago (AAA), the initial governing body founded on 16 June 1945.

From the early 1900s the Empire Day (24 May) Sports Meeting at the Oval, had been the unofficial championships. Organized at first by the Queens Park Cricket Club as a cycling and athletics meeting, in the 1930s they were called the WI Games and run by the Iere Club and then by the TAAC (Trinidad Amateur Athletic Club).

The programme for the inaugural Championships in 1946 only had events for men, but this was remedied the following year when two races for women were introduced, and Pearl Gooding won both (75y in 9.0 and 100y in 13.8).

Over the decades the Championships have seen many changes, in addition to the conversion of track races from yards to metres. As new events for men and women were added to the programme the duration was extended to a second day. In the 1950s the meeting even covered two weekends in order to accommodate junior, B class and international invitation events. Today the senior Championships are programmed over a single weekend, with junior and youth titles assigned on separate dates.

From 1946 to 1957 Championships were held at the Oval, with one day of the 1956 and 1957 programmes contested at Skinner Park, San Fernando.

No Championships were held in 1958 when in April the AAA hosted the Second BWI Championships, inaugurated the year before in Kingston, Jamaica.

Skinner Park hosted the Championships in 1959 (when track events became metric) and 1960, while those of 1961 and 1962 were run off at Guaracara Park, Pte a Pierre, under the title of Trinidad Games.

Disagreement between the AAA and its affiliate, the East St George AAA, prevented the smooth functioning of the governing body including the organization of Championships after 1962, and also led to the demise of the AAA.

After a six year gap, two interim championships were organized by the National Athletes Union, at Pte a Pierre in 1969 and at Shaw Park, Scarborough, in 1970.

In 1971 the National Amateur Athletic Association, renamed National Association of Athletics Administrations in 2008 (NAAA), became the new governing body and assumed the organization of Championships, at CIC Grounds, Port of Spain (1972) and at UWI Grounds, St Augustine (1973).

A new all-weather track was opened at the Arima Municipal Stadium in 1974, and from that year until 1981 all Championships were contested there.

From 1982 to date the Championships have been held at the Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain with four exceptions: 1989 at Municipal Stadium, Arima, 1990 when they were cancelled following the attempted Muslimeen coup, 1997 at Guaracara Park, Pte a Pierre, and 2006 at Yorke Stadium, Bacolet, Tobago.

The Championships provide a stage on which all our track and field athletes can strive to improve their performances and win national titles. Additionally they give local fans a chance to see overseas based athletes perform, since in recent years the Championships serve as trials for selecting representative teams for the Olympics, the World Championships and other international Games.

Two athletes have been national champion eleven times in a single event: shot putter Cleopatra Borel (2002-2016) and triple jumper Ayanna Alexander (2006-2016). While ten titles have been won by Melissa de Leon at 800m (1999-2012), Pilar McShine at 1500m (2001-2013) and  javelin thrower Geraldine George (1992-2015),

Among the men triple jumper Chris Hercules has won nine championship titles (2005-2013). Shot putters Conrad Derrick (1947-1957), Hubert Maingot (1975-1994) and Dave Stoute (1996-2004) plus high hurdler Anthony Spencer (1972-1985) have captured eight titles each.

To date only one family (the Armstrongs from Arima) has provided national champions from three different generations in the same event. Over the half lap sprint Ernest Armstrong won the 220y in 1951 (22.6), his son Ainsley Armstrong won the 200m in 1972 (21.4) and the latter`s son Aaron Armstrong won the 200m in 2005 (19.98w).

 

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