Budding athletes beat odds at chaotic Western Province Schools Athletics Championship

by Reemus Fernando

Royal College hurdler Nadun Bandara and sprinter Jayeshi Uththara of Holy Cross College, Gampaha won the best athlete titles of the boys’ and girls’ categories respectively for their outstanding performances at the Western Province Schools Athletics Championship which concluded at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Wednesday.

The four day event, which was criticized by many, including Olympian and Asian Games medallist Damayanthi Dharsha, for its highly disorganized nature, saw budding athletes beating odds to create a number of meet records.

Almost all track events of the meet were conducted behind schedule forcing athletes to endure undue delays after warming up to face the starters orders. On the final day yesterday, even though there were only 4×400 metres relay heats and finals and 100 metres finals, officials failed to commence the events on schedule. Most of the 4×400 metres relay heats got delayed by two hours.

In a cost cutting measure the organisers also did not award medals for the winners.

On such a backdrop young athletes accounted for over a dozen new meet records in the top three age categories alone.

Hurdler Bandara, who represented Sri Lanka at the recently held World Junior Championships in Cali, Colombia, was one of the standout performers as he clocked 14.1 seconds to create a new meet record in the Under 20 boys’ 110 metres hurdles. He won the race for the best athlete award ahead of Ananda Sastralaya, Mathugama sprinter Isuru Kaushalya whose record breaking feat of 47.4 seconds in the Under 20 400 metres was just 31 points behind that of the Royalist.

The record breaking 17.31 metres effort of shot putter Jayavi Ranhinda of Royal College, Panadura in the Under 18 discipline earned him the best athlete title in his age category.

In the corresponding girls’ category, Shenari Wijetunga of Ave Maria Convent, Negombo produced an outstanding feat winning all three sprint events (100m-12.4 secs, 200m-25.5m). Her 58.4 seconds feat in the 400 metres was adjudged the best in that category.

Lyceum International, Wattala jumper Tharusha Mendis who cleared 1.89 metres to win the Under 16 boys’ high jump was adjudged the best athlete in that age category, while St. Lawrence’s, Wellawatta jumper Oshini Kodikara bagged the girls’ title for her feat of 5.54 metres in the long jump.

Sprinters Binal Gunaratne and Tharini Nimarina won the titles for their performances in the Under 14 boys’ and girls’ 80 metres.

The overall boys’ and girls’ titles of the championship were won by Lyceum Wattala. They aggregated 182 and 206 points in the two respective categories.

Ave Maria Convent with 116 points were the runners up to Lyceum in the girls’ category, while Holy Cross, Gampaha (98), Newstead Girls School (70) and Dharmapala College, Pannipitiya finished behind them.

St. Peter’s had an aggregate of 149 points to finish second behind Lyceum. Maris Stella finished third with 96 points. St. Benedict’s, who were the champions at the recently held Colombo Zonal meet finished fourth with 88 points.

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