The 55th State school athletic meet, after four days of hectic action, is part of history now. And as one looks back at the event which saw 2,569 athletes from 14 districts compete hard in the 94 medal events, the freeze-frames in mind suggests that Kerala could well be in a position to continue on with its three-decade-old hegemony over athletics for some more time to come.

The excitement of a 16-year-old Sreenith Mohan soaring over the bar at 2.06m, the blistering record double of sprinter Jijin Vijayan and the polished performances by Lijo Mani, Vishnu V. Sabu, K. Shamnas, P.U. Chithra, M.D. Thara, Jessy Joseph, Sinju Prakash and C. Rengitha, to name a few, and the intensity of the battle royale for the overall championship title between Ernakulam and Palakkad did erase away some of the concern which enthusiasts felt when Kerala, for the first time in 13 years, lost the overall title to Haryana at the National junior meet in Ranchi early last month.

The emergence of two schools from Malappuram — Ideal EHSS in Kadakassery and Navamukunda HSS in Thirunavaya — as a growing power fit enough to take on the likes of the already established Mar Basil HSS and St. George HSS (both from Kothamangalam in Ernakulam district), Kalladi HSS, HS Parli and HS Mundur (all from Palakkad), the Usha School of Athletics and the Mercy Kuttan Academy of Athletics was heart-warming, signalling the spread of the sport into newer areas within the State.

Also noteworthy was the professional approach of the technical officials who toiled hard in the sun and ensured that each of the events in the various age-groups was conducted with a touch of class and, more importantly, on schedule.

The flip side

Yet, on the flip side, the schedule of events remained a sore thumb. For a meet, which was held over four days for a second time in as many years, the faulty scheduling of events naturally came up for discussions on many an occasion, forcing legend P.T. Usha to cite an example on how her protégé Jessy Joseph lost the golden opportunity to rewrite her own 800m championship record in junior girls. The reason for Usha's angst was evident as the heats of the two-lapper were gone through only a few hours before the final. And, here again, only the top eight from the various heats, timing-wise, made the cut instead of the winner of each of the initial races qualifying for the final straightaway. In essence, this meant that the girls had to come out with an all-out effort in the heats itself and were thus left with little time to recover for the final. Jessy, undoubtedly, was a victim.

The jumpers in the various sections too were hit — a reason, perhaps, for the less then expected show in the pits. With more than 35 jumpers taking part in each event, the athletes found it hard to keep themselves warmed up, left waiting for a long time to showcase their talent.

And then, unscientific too was the timings allotted to many a jumping event. A good example on this account being the late morning hours kept apart for the senior girls' long jump figuring National junior champion, Nayana James. It was well into noon when the final three jumps were gone through in the event and Nayana, despite trying her best, failed to live up to the expectations while winning the gold medal.An important suggestion which came up as the meet progressed was on the need to rework on the scheduling of events, particularly in jumps. “We should try to have a qualifying round for each of these events and then the final over two days. That would help the athletes perform better and added more charm to the meet,” said Tony Daniel, executive vice-president of the Kerala State Athletics Association.

The extension of the meet by one more day was another suggestion which came up.

Keywords: athletic meet