The amount of $1.5 million that Iram Lewis speaks of to fund a national relay training camp might seem quite huge on the surface. However, this is the league The Bahamas is now in. If it hopes to hold onto its reputation as that spectacular "per capita" nation in sports, the financial necessities must be addressed. Lewis is a member of two national record-breaking sprint relay teams (39.42 in 1993 and the present mark of 38.98 in 2000). He speaks fondly of the journey he and others took with Coach Sidney Cartwright on the way to establishing themselves as the best ever male sprint relay combination in the history of this country. He is urging the Bahamas Association of Athletics Associations (BAAA) to broaden the template of Cartwright to include all sprint relays. "There were once just three of us (Renward Wells, Andrew Tynes, Lewis) on the same page in the Bahamas Tigers Club. We understood each other. We knew everything about what to expect on the track. Coach Cartwright told us we needed another good sprinter. He brought in Bernard Young and then he began with us. He had us working with one focus, to go after the national record. We lived by the relay techniques he passed on to us. We spent countless hours, just working on our arm action, elbows in the right position. We would just go through that routine. We would always have the stick (baton) in our hand as we moved around the track while practicing. "Coach Cartwright instilled in us the necessity to not just run fast to the zones (passing area) but through the zones. That meant our passes had to click. There are four styles of passing used. There is the underhand, the overhand, the shovel pass and the blind pass. With the blind pass, you just run up to the zone and the receiving runner sprints off, reaching back for the stick at the same time. This method is risky. We did the shovel pass. "We knew our voices and the oncoming runner would shout, "Stick" and the receiving runner reached back. We had our connection down to a science. We clicked, but that came with a lot of work and dedication. It paid off for us twice. We have coaches like Cartwright in Miami, Lani Greene, also in Florida. There is Henry Rolle who is a fixture at Auburn University and Norbert Elliot in Tennessee. You have me, Renward and Andrew available for expertise. We have got the strong background to develop a national relay training program without any problems at all. We just need to recognize what we have and utilize it," said Lewis. Questioned about the conflicting problems for collegiate and university athletes, Lewis expressed confidence that a good training system could work around the situation. "The coaches of athletes who are abroad would love to work with a national program, particularly during off-seasons. It's just a matter of proper communication and a well-coordinated camp perspective. Now the cost does chip in. This is what will put the total around $1.5 million per year. We have to move the athletes from point 'A' to point 'B' where the camp is, and sustain some of them, as need be. They need a lot of work as a unit, plus good competitions. "The Jamaican national team I think, messed up back in 2001 and it's as if they decided to escalate their relay program from that point. Now, they work out all the time. They think as one on the track and that's why they are the best consistently these days. It's definitely not only about speed. The Americans have always had the fastest combinations, but they have messed up the baton pass often. We are doing the same thing, especially in the 1,600 meters men's relay. This should tell us something. Let's get that national training program established so we would stop missing out on medals," said Lewis. What he advocates is certainly not anything new. I have written previously in this space about the intense training program opted for, back in 1968 by Cuba. Juan Morales, the hurdling standout who was selected to team up with Enrique Figuerola, Hermes Ramirez and Pablo Montes, told me the story. Just as Lewis suggests, Cuba had its foursome working together for months leading up to the 1968 Olympics. The result was a silver medal. If what Lewis proposes is accepted, it's a safe bet that the national 1,600m relay squad would have much greater success than has been the case. With our young female sprinters, a legacy in the 4x100m relay would continue and a new era of 1,600m success would begin. Also, there is the likelihood that some quality sprinters would emerge out of the system to challenge the national men's 4x100m relay record. The series continues tomorrow. To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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