Team manager Dexter Voisin is anticipating a solid showing from Trinidad and Tobago at the 2013 Carifta Games, in Nassau, Bahamas.
At the 2012 Games, in Bermuda, T&T finished third with six gold medals, nine silver and seven bronze. One of those gold medals was earned by Keshorn Walcott, the Toco field athlete completing a hat-trick of boys' under-20 javelin triumphs, en route to Olympic gold at the London Games.
Walcott is now out of the junior ranks, and not eligible to compete at Carifta. However, the other five T&T athletes that struck gold last year are in line for selection for the 2013 edition of the Games.
"This year," Voisin told the Express, "will be a year of continuation, not a rebuilding year. While Keshorn is notably absent, some junior athletes are showing promise, especially in development meets.
"We have Jonathan Farinha. We still have Mark London, who will always be in medal contention in the middle distance events. We have the throwers, Kenejah Williams and Chelsea James. We have some junior athletes who will be continuing from where they left off last season."
At the 2012 Games, Farinha won the boys' under-17 200 metres, London secured the boys' under-20 800m title, Williams topped the boys' under-17 discus field, James emerged victorious in the girls' under-17 shot put, and Andwuelle Wright triumphed in the boys' under-17 long jump.
Another standout for T&T at Carifta 2012 was Machel Cedenio. He seized silver in the boys' under-20 400m and 4x400m events. Later in the season, he finished fifth in the one-lap final at the World Junior Championships in Barcelona, Spain, and anchored T&T to bronze in the 4x4 relay.
"If his development takes the expected course," said Voisin, "he is one who is likely to dominate for a couple years to come. Once there is the natural progression, and he is in good health, I expect him to dominate Carifta."
In a bid to ensure the best possible results at Carifta 2013, 80 athletes were shortlisted last November.
"Correspondence," Voisin explained, "went out to athletes and their clubs, and invitations were extended to field athletes to join the existing NAAA (National Association of Athletics Administrations) programme for jumps and throws. Most of those that were invited have joined."
The team manager said the throwers are training under the guidance of Nadine Hamid at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva, while the jumpers are being coached by Robin Brereton, Wendell Williams and Michelle Pennie at both the Boldon Stadium and the Hasely Crawford Stadium training ground.
"The jump coaches used to go to Tobago every other weekend, starting last September, but the Dwight Yorke Stadium has been closed for repairs so we're trying to have the athletes come over to Trinidad. The Tobago jumpers have a bit of a challenge right now."
Tobagonian athletes, however, are not the only ones having a tough time in 2013.
"The Manny Ramjohn Stadium and Larry Gomes Stadium tracks are under reconstruction. And as we speak, the Crawford Stadium is closed till after Carnival.
"Athletes," Voisin continued, "have a lot of adjustments to make. Only the Boldon Stadium is available right now, and the Boldon track will be relaid this year as well. The plan is to do all the tracks this year. But the sacrifice is worth it…all the tracks will be ready for next season, so there'll be no more deterrents."
The Carifta trials will be staged on March 2 and 3, at the Crawford Stadium. The team will be named shortly after. Edwin Skinner has been appointed head coach.
Voisin said results at the trials will not be the only topic of conversation when the national selectors meet to pick the T&T team for the March 29-April 1 Games.
"As of last year, there was an effort made by the association (NAAA) to have electronic timing at development meets, so those meets will also be taken into consideration."
The Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago (sportt) will play a role in Team T&T's preparations for Carifta 2013.
"Last week, we met with the Sports Company High Performance Centre, at the (Crawford) Stadium. Miss Candice Thomas offered some assistance, in terms of seminars on nutrition, psychology...we're coordinating with them to put together a programme.
"We want to focus a little more on the non-physical aspect for the athletes—nutrition, etcetera. All athletes are under their respective coaches and clubs, but most of them (clubs) don't have facilities to administer that type of training, in terms of off-the-track staff. With the Sports Company establishing that unit at the Stadium," Voisin ended, "we would be able to tap into their resources."