History of O.E.C.S Athletics by Rey O’Neal

The OECS (Organization of Eastern Caribbean States) is a grouping of small Caribbean countries that, while having no direct political association, cooperate with one another in a number of different areas, including sport. The OECS Sports Desk organizes or finds sponsorship for a number of sporting events. The OECS Track and Field Championships were perhaps the OECS event with the highest profile and although athletes from the member countries obtained major individual success after the demise of the meet, the absence of the competition has left a void in the regional development programme.

The countries which comprise the OECS include four from the Windward Islands- Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines; and five from the Leeward Islands – Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla.

Will the OECS Championships ever resume? Who knows? The probability is not great though as the circumstances that surrounded their success have changed. The cost of travel has become prohibitive in many cases and, with an expanded regional calendar, many of the smaller countries have to choose very carefully the competitions in which they wish to have their athletes participate.

On the positive side, the quality of the facilities in the OECS have improved immeasurably. Grenada was the first to boast a certified all-weather track, followed by the British Virgin Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis and St Lucia. The standards of the stadia vary widely but each country has hosted a regional championship event of some magnitude. Antigua and Barbuda, the first to actually install an all-weather track has not gained certification but has hosted Leeward Islands senior championships.

In the absence of the OECS championships a few invitational events have helped to keep the sport in the public eye. Grenada continued the Whitsuntide Games, a meet with a tradition dating back to the 1950s. The British Virgin Islands hosted an invitational meet annually except at times in years when the country hosted a Leeward Islands event. Several of the other islands have also invited their neighbors to take part in their national championships.

Improved and more specialised coaching expertise has also paid off with improved athletic performances. Since 1991 OECS athletes have won medals at every major international championships for which they have been eligible with Kim Collins of St Kitts and Nevis and Grenadians Alleyne Francique and Kirani James being able to call themselves World Champions in outdoor or indoor competition. There have been gold medals at the C.A.C Games, World Student Games, Pan-American and Commonwealth Games. The only blank space remains the Olympic Games.In the following pages set out in the History of OECS Athletics booklet, there are listings of the best performers from OECS countries in the various Track and Field events, lists of medalists at international competitions, a brief history of the Sport’s best representatives in the member countries and a look at the comparative strengths of athletics in the territories of the sub-region.

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