Kochi: Unconfirmed tickets, a long journey and all sorts of turbulence are pretty routine in the itinerary of a Kerala team taking part in national schools athletics meet every year and it wasn’t any different this time either.
But like a jostling crowd fighting for seats in galleries ahead of a match, all this hullaballoo is only until they arrive at the Birsa Munda Athletics Stadium at Hotwar, Ranchi to retain a title they have had a grip on for 16 continuous years.
It was only in the 2011 meet at Amritsar that Kerala had last had any compeition whatsoever when hosts Punjab were pipped by 4 points. In the previous two editions Kerala’s victories have been overwhelming, extending its glorious run in the meets.
The meet scheduled to be held from January 8 to 12 has a massive 117-member athletic team from Kerala, apart from 25 officials. Physical education teachers P.G. Manoj, Raju Paul and Shiby are the coaches in charge of the team.
The highlight of this year’s championship is Mundur School’s wonder athlete P.U. Chithra. In what will be her final School meet, the endurance runner is eyeing gold in all four events – 1500, 3000, 5000m and cross country.
Athletes to watch out for: Sub-junior — Arjun S.S., Sudheesh D., Aparna Roy, Rahul Raj;
Junior – Rakhil A.G., Rugma Udhayan, Neena K.T., Dibi Sebastian, Jisna Mathew, Athira K.R.;
Senior — Sreenith Mohan, Nasimudheen M.N., Rahul Raj, Twinkle Tomy, Maymon Paulose, Athira Surendran, Therese Joseph, Jessy Joseph, Varsha V.V. and Arya T. S.
On Sunday, after hours of hue and cry the Kerala team left the state in an additional railway coach added to the Dhanbad Express.
KERALA HOSTS FEDERATION CUP
Kerala is set to host the prestigious Federation Cup football championship in the cities of Manjeri and Kochi from January 14. The championship involving 16 teams features Kochi-based Eagles FC as the lone representative from Kerala.
The nation’s best clubs, all except Bhawanipore, United Sikkim and Eagles, plying their trade in the I-League are divided in four groups. The Groups B and D will be played at Manjeri and the other two in Kochi.The Jawaharlal Nehru international stadium in Kochi is also the venue for the semifinals and final to be played on January 23 and 25 respectively.