Two former Thomas Saunders star athletes seeing red
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March 1, 2013
Two former Thomas Saunders star athletes seeing red

The denial of entry of two former star athletes of the Thomas Saunders Secondary School to the eighth annual track and field meet of the school on Tuesday, has incensed the young men and their mothers.{{more}}

The decision by the leadership of the Thomas Saunders Secondary School to screen persons attending the meet at the Victoria Park, has left a sour taste in the mouths of the affected persons.

Former student athletes of the school, Najee Israel and Brandon Parris, along with Parris’ mother Lesanne Valentine, were among persons who were prevented from entering the Victoria Park.

Valentine told SEARCHLIGHT on Tuesday that while they were entering the gate located at the eastern end of the Park, the security personnel on duty, Hamilton Charles, indicated to them that, acting on orders, they, along with Israel and coach Michael Ollivierre could not enter the venue.

Valentine said that while she was at the gate seeking an explanation, principal of the school John Renton told her that Parris and Israel were disrespectful to the school during the heats, held at the Grammar School; Playing Field the previous Tuesday.

“My son never disrespected the school, all he did was to use a camcorder to record his club mates of the IT DAT track club”, Valentine stated.

Valentine added that Renton informed her that Parris, now a student of the SVG Community College, was aiding in the process of poaching athletes from the school to another club.

A worked up Valentine, said she thought it was “ungrateful” on the part of the school’s management, since her son helped to bring glory to that institution, through his exploits on the track.

She trumpeted that her son is the 2012 junior athlete of the year and the overall athlete of the year, with many of his accolades attained while he was a final year student at the Thomas Saunders Secondary School.

Israel, a former head boy at the school, denied disrupting the school’s heats, and questioned why he was not allowed to witness the school’s track meet.

Concerning the heats, Israel said that he was simply cheering on members of his club, who are students of the school, while Parris was videotaping their performances.

On the actual sports day on Tuesday, the 17-year-old student of the SVG Community College said that he received a disappointing surprise.

“When I went to the park yesterday (Tuesday), the security asked my name and I told him my name, and he told me that I cannot be there… and I asked him why, and he said he cannot give me all of that information… and he told me that I need to remove myself from the premises….

“They had an SSU officer in the area… so the security called the SSU man over and said that I was disturbing the peace. Then I asked the SSU officer why I can’t come in… and he just say if the principal say I can’t come in that should be reason enough.”

Monique Hull, the mother of Israel, told SEARCHLIGHT that she thought the whole issue was idiotic, and one which could have a negative effect on the students, and the sport as a whole.

“Whatever is going on between the coaches will trickle down to the athletes….

“He did not do anything, he did not put the school in disrepute; he was one of their best athletes and… he has always been there for Thomas Saunders, so to tell him he can’t come in without getting his side of the story is unfair, “ Hull insisted.

The boys’ coach Michael Ollivierre, who was also to have been denied entry, was seen at the Victoria Park during the afternoon session of the track meet.

He had earlier indicated to SEARCHLIGHT that he had been summoned to the Ministry of Education on Friday, and was asked by Deputy Chief Education Officer Beverley Neptune to avoid attending the Thomas Saunders Secondary School’s sports meet.

He was told that his presence at the athletics heats had “disturbed” the event.

However, Ollivierre in his defence said: “All I did was to turn up to the event with my igloo with water and ice to give the athletes who I coach, and I stay in a corner far from the track and I provide these things and love .… Before the kids run, they check me and after they finish they check me.

“I am a professional coach; I have athletes who are running and I need to see them run,” Ollivierre declared.

Ollivierre, who spent more than two decades coaching in Jamaica, returned to the land of his birth three years ago and has since been employed by government “to seek out athletic talent across St Vincent and the Grenadines”, as articulated by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves.

Ollivierre then forged a partnership with the Thomas Saunders set-up, which saw him working closely with the physical education teacher at that institution, Godfrey “Fuzzy” Harry.

The association became fruitful and in 2011, led to the Thomas Saunders Secondary School becoming the first Vincentian outfit to send a team to the famed Penn Relays in the United States of America.

But Ollivierre and Harry have since broken ranks and the relationship between the two has become acrimonious, even spilling over into the public domain.

Reports are that the friction between the two has intensified within recent months our athletes’ choice of coach. (RT/JJ)