Calabar Says It May Boycott Jamaican Champs Due To A Rival's Star Transfer

By Johanna Gretschel, FloTrack

There's a controversy brewing in Jamaica ahead of the Inter-Secondary School Sports Association (ISSA) Boys & Girls Champs, to be held in Kingston at National Stadium from March 28 to April 1. The event commonly known as "Champs" is the pinnacle of the track-crazed island nation's high school season. 

This year, defending boys team champion Calabar is calling foul on the ISSA for approving a top-ranked transfer student, Aryamanya "Ari" Rodgers, to compete for rival school Kingston College despite not meeting all eligibility criteria. Calabar is on the verge of winning its sixth consecutive boys team title, but it's threatening to boycott the 2017 event. 

Six titles in a row would be the most in meet history since Kingston College's six straight from 2001 to 2006. KC owns the most consecutive titles ever with its 12-year winning streak from 1962 to 1975.

Calabar boycotted the event's media day two weeks ago, and returned the Mortimer Geddes Trophy -- awarded to the Champs team winner every year -- 12 days earlier than required, according to the Jamaica Observer. A statement issued by Calabar school president Albert Corcho requested that the ISSA provide, in writing, a formal explanation of its decision to exempt Rodgers from the association's eligibility rules and hinted that the five-time defending champions may boycott the event altogether if the ruling is not reversed. Read the full statement here.

For a student from a non-member school, or another country, to immediately participate in ISSA athletics, he or she must meet the following three criteria: be aged less than 16 years, registered in school by September 30, and have a school attendance record of 80 percent. 

Rodgers did not arrive in Jamaica until October 2016 due to a months-long immigration ordeal.

The Observer writes that Rodgers' legal guardian is former LSU All-American Reuben Twijukye, who is from Busheny, Uganda, and currently resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, according to his Facebook page.

Ugandan travel authorities denied Rodgers a visa to the United States, so Twijukye reached out to Kingston College in June 2016 to secure a spot at the powerhouse track school for the rising distance star. Rodgers was officially accepted by KC on July 11 and registered for school on July 18. He twice made travel plans to fly to Jamaica with a stopover in Germany, but he was ultimately denied to board on both occasions because he did not have a visa to enter Germany. After the second failed travel attempt, Rodgers and his guardian were robbed at gunpoint of nearly all their cash by Kenyan soldiers.

Rodgers eventually found a flight from Entebbe, Uganda, through the Netherlands to Curacao, then Jamaica, which arrived on Sunday, October 16. He attended his first day of school on Tuesday, October 18.

An ISSA executive meeting was held last week to decide Rodger's fate. Ten of 15 principals attended; eight voted to allow Rodgers to compete, one voted against, and one abstained. Corcho of Calabar was absent from this meeting and issued the statement after the decision was made public.

If the ISSA stands by its decision to let Rodgers compete, he could potentially sweep the distance events in Class 2 (aged 16 and under). He is undefeated in 5K and 1500m competition this year and could also threaten for gold in the 800m.

Watch Rodgers run 15:26.96 for 5K to win a local race in January: