Kerala stamped its prowess as an athletics powerhouse for a record 16th straight year as it won the overall championship at the 58th national schools meet which concluded at the Saefai stadium in Etawah, Uttar Pradesh, on Saturday.
The champion State finished with a haul of 33 gold, 26 silver, and 18 bronze medals and an overwhelming tally of 304 points, far ahead of Maharashtra (12-12-6, 106 points) and Punjab 8-10-12, 88 points) which came in second and third. The Kerala tally in Etawah also saw a marked improvement of the 29 gold, 25 silver and 15 bronze medals which the State had won in Ludhiana last year.
The supremacy of the State was well marked in both the track and field as Palakkad’s P.U. Chithra (HS Mundur) and P. Mohammad Afsal (HS Parli) emerged individual champions in the senior girls and junior boys categories and were awarded a Tata Nano car each by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, who was the chief guest at the closing ceremony.
Chithra, in fact, was the most successful athlete in the five-day finishing with an individual tally of four gold medals, including the cross country that she picked up on Saturday, while Afsal won two gold medals and a silver. Of the total 17 records broken at the meet, seven were accounted by athletes from the State. This includes the two records established by Chithra and one each by Afsal, Vishnu Unni, Jenimol Joy, Mariya James, and Jessy Joseph.
All these athletes were awarded a cash prize of Rs.21,000 for each of their record-breaking efforts. On return, the medal winning Kerala athletes will be honoured by the State with cash awards of Rs.25,000 (gold), Rs.20,000 (silver), and Rs.15,000 (bronze) in accordance with a Cabinet decision taken four years ago.
Chandy lauds team
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has lauded the brilliant performance of the Kerala team at the national schools meet.
Education Minister P.K. Abdu Rabb and Sports Minister K.B. Ganesh Kumar too in separate messages congratulated the team for its outstanding show. Mr. Ganesh Kumar also announced that a cash incentive of Rs.3 lakh would be made to four schools — St. George HSS and Mar Basil HSS (both from Kothamangalam) and HS Parli and HS Mundur (both Palakkad) — through the Directorate of Sports and Youth Affairs.