by R Riley
[POMPANO BEACH] – The 46th annual staging of the Northwest Track and Field Classic (o/c Miami Classic) was held on June 11 and June 12 at Pompano Beach’s Blanche Ely High School. The Northwest Classic, just like the venue where it was held, is a magnet, for track athletes young and old, wanting to compete against stellar competition.
The event perennially attracts teams from track giants, the likes of Jamaica, Bahamas, Canada, and Trinidad &Tobago, and the United States. Although, the event may not boast the moniker of “Junior Olympics” the nickname given to Jamaica’s Annual Boys and Girls Championships (annual high school meet in Kingston, Jamaica) the talent is not of an inferior nature. Conversely, the stands are often laden with NCAA scouts looking to “discover” the next big star.
Track Great Jesse Holt
The meet started as the brainchild of former track great Jesse Holt. Holt won an athletic scholarship to Grambling State in New Orleans specializing in the 100 and 200 meters. While at Grambling, Holt competed against some of the best athletes of the day, men like Bob Hayes (1964 Olympic Champion), Jim Hines (1968 Olympic Champion), and fellow Olympians Mel Pender and Charlie Green. He subsequently earned an invitation to the 1964 Olympic Trials, however, injury caused him to discontinue his Olympic bid. Injury however, did not dissuade Holt from pursuing his track passions.
Northwest Track and Field Classic
In 1976 upon his return to Miami, Holt formed the Miami Northwest Track Club, and began hosting the annual Northwest Track and Field Classic. The Track Meet is a major amateur sports event that is sanctioned by the USA Track and Field Association. Annually, the Classic attracts more than 2,000 age group participant from the US, the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, Mexico, Puerto Rico, even as far West Germany.
The classic has persisted, getting bigger and better annually for 46 years. Coaches and parents of the host club, Miami Northwest Track Club (also 46 years) cite several reasons for the longevity of the club. Most importantly, they describe a close knit family atmosphere that exists within the club.
Many of the parents and coaches were themselves former members of the club, a club that has produced numerous doctors, lawyers, and other professionals throughout South Florida, and the entire country.
These parents, have now brought their children back to join the club, laying the foundation for not only multi-generational competitive rivalries, but also lifelong friendships. Parents go as far as mentoring each other’s children, both academically and athletically.
Olympian, Bershawn “Batman” Jackson, the 400 m bronze medalist Beijing’s 2008 Olympic Games, is a product of Miami Northwest Track Club. Robin Reynolds, the most decorated high school athlete in Florida state history, winning 14 gold medals in four years, is also a product of the Northwest Miami Track Club. In addition to providing youth a positive outlet to further their athletics aspirations, the Miami Northwest Track Club has been a “cornerstone” throughout the years for social development.
The level of competition at the event is unrivaled amongst most events of its kind. The Naples Suns Elite Track Club based out of Naples, Florida competed at the 46th annual event. The coach McKenzie Augustin, or “Coach Mack” enjoys the fact that there is international competition, he stated that in order to be the best, you have to compete against the best. In addition to the competition, McKenzie mentioned “the electric energy” that is ever present at the meet. This year, McKenzie brought 13 competitors (aged 4-17) to the meet.
Top Notch Talent
The ability to attract top notch competition from across the world is no accident from a logistical standpoint. The founder, Jesse Holt, planned the dates around the ability of the Caribbean Islands to be able to attend the event. Top Notch Track Club from Tortola (British Virgin Islands) is an annual attendee of the meet. Steve Augustine, president of the BVIAA, (Athletics Association) is a former childhood participant of the Classic in the early 90s. Asked why, Top Notch is an annual attendee of the meet, he stated that the level of competition at the youth and junior developmental stages, is unmatched. Additionally, the exposure that the meet provides his athletes, makes the trip a worthwhile one. More importantly, it provides the youth incentive to want to “do the right thing” live well, be respectful, and compete. The meet is something that children look forward to year after year.
Although the majority of athletes that compete in the MNWC are minors, the meet does boast an impressive docket of competitors that are over the age of 35. Michael King, a native of Yallahs, Jamaica runs for a club called Jamaica Masters. He utilized the classic as a “warm up” for the upcoming World Masters Competition in Finland June 29-July 10. King last competed at Jamaica’s Gibson Relays as part of a 4×100 m relay team. A team that included former Jamaican High School great Daniel England.
The high level of competition attracted King to the meet. King, who placed 2nd in the 2019 World Masters in Toronto in the 100 m (35 to 40 age group), plans to return to the meet in 2023. Former Jamaican, gold medalist Michael Frater, part of the quartet that currently holds the World Record for the 100 meter relay is also a former participant of the classic.
47th Annual Staging
The 47th annual staging of the Miami Northwest Track Classic will makes its return to Miami Dade County after several years of hiatus. The event, held annually on the 2nd weekend of June will see the 2023 edition at Traz Powell Stadium, Miami Dade College North.
If you are a track and field enthusiast, irrespective of your age or experience, you will not let the opportunity either to participate or spectate, pass you by.