RICHARD JONES, the national coach for the North America, Central America and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC) Cross Country Championship team, said TT's athletes must switch their mentality for the the 2019 Championships at 2pm today. Jones said the local runners must shift focus from an individual mindset to a team performance.
The Championships will be held at the Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain. Before the championships there will be a fun run at 1.30 pm with registration for that event starting from noon at the savannah.
The TT team comprises six men and two women. Iley Bruce (Dovers Athletics), Mathew Hagley (TT Defence Force), Sherwin Stapleton (Unattached), Shirvan Baboolal (Richard Jones Racing), Anthony Phillip (Richard Jones Racing) and Mark London (Zenith Athletics) will represent TT in the men's 10K. In the women's 10K, Samantha Shukla (Unattached) and Tonya Nero (Athletics Central) will fly the flag. Athletes will also compete in the Under-20 6K women's event and the Under-20 men's 8K event.
The TT athletes, under Jones and manager Dawn Washington, have been putting in their final preparations at the Queen's Park Savannah earlier this week.
Jones, speaking with Newsday before the start of a training session on Tuesday, said he expects strong results from his team.
"We have about three or four guys who are close among themselves. These guys race among themselves every weekend in Trinidad so they know each other," Jones said.
The TT coach wants his athletes to produce a strong team effort. "They know each other from the standpoint of competing against each other, (but) with cross country running I will tell them it is a toss up on how they change that competitive nature to running with a team and also still trying to be competitive. You have to look at Mathew Hagley, Shirvan Baboolal, Sherwin Stapleton and Iley Bruce (as strong contenders)."
Jones said it may come down to who could hold their nerve and compete today.
He added, "Based on the trials and the times they would have run, they are around that same 32, 33 minutes kind of effort, so on the day it's who is feeling good and who could bring their A-game on that day."
The experienced coach expects his runners to be at their peak considering their familiarity with the terrain.
He said, "This race you will get a better representation of what they could do because it is home and they are accustomed to here and they are accustomed to training here."
TT hosted this Cross Country Championships on four previous occasions – 2010 at Mt Irvine Bay Golf Course in Tobago, 2011 and 2012 at the Queen's Park Savannah and in 2014 at Mt Irvine Bay Golf Course.
Each country is allowed to enter six athletes per event with the top four athletes being counted for team results. Trying to spoil TT's chances at home are Bahamas, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, Canada, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Mexico and USA.
Defending men's senior champion team USA will be aiming to repeat their success with the 2017 individual men's senior champion Abbabiya Simbassa of USA hoping to once again cross the finish line first.