UB athletes set to compete in Central American University games

The University of Belize is aiming to once again participate in a major regional sporting event, the Central American University Games. After a rigorous training regiment and logistical leg work 49 athletes along with support staff will be leaving this Sunday for Guatemala to represent the University and Belize at the games. Julian Cruz visited with the contingent an filed this report.

Julian Cruz, PlusTV Journalist
UBís star athletes are once again preparing for the Central American University Games (which happen every two years) scheduled to take place from the 16 Ė 20 April in Guatemala. The Black Jaguars basketball team have dominated that discipline since Belize started participating securing gold in 2008 and silver in 2010. This year the universityís ambitions have broadened to include athletes in five disciplines. We visited with the athletes this morning as they were finalizing travel arrangements and getting down ground rules in preparation for the busy week ahead.

Farron Louriano, UB Jaguars Basketball Team
Well the competition is very stiff out there and we as a team have been working-out for about six months now and I feel that we are ready.

Julian Cruz, PlusTV Journalist
How long have you been playing basketball?

Winston Pratt, UB Jaguars Basketball Team
I am twenty-one years old, so you can say that I have been playing basketball all my life.

Julian Cruz
Have you ever had a Central American experience before?

Winston Pratt
Yes, numerous times.

Julian Cruz
What do you anticipate from the competition coming up?

Winston Pratt
Well from the last experience that we had, there were a lot of competition and I hope that it remains the same and we also came in second, but this time we are going to bring back the gold medal, so that is expected.

Farron Louriano
I bring to the court leadership and support for my fellow players. If they fall down, Iíll go and pick them up and pat them on the back and tell them good work. The small things are what counts to make us win.

Winston Pratt
Our team spirit is very high; we the basketball team, you can say that we are like brothers; we look out for each other and play together as one, we are one unit.

Julian Cruz
So we can expect the gold this year?

Winston Pratt
Yes, guaranteed.

The track and field girls shared their feelings about competing for the first time on a regional stage.

Elsaidia Castillo, UB Track Team
To be honest I am very nervous, because I know that other athletes from the other Central American countries are talented, so I am very nervous, but I will try my best when I reach there.

Kimberly Spence, UB Jaguars Track Team
We have been preparing very hard for the games; we have been practicing a lot, because you know, practice makes perfect and we want to bring back a medal. We want to bring back medals, not just one medal. This is the first time UB is taking a track team out.

Julian Cruz
Your involvement with Track and Field - has running been something you have been doing ever since you were a child?

Participant, UB Jaguars Track Team
Yes, I have been doing Track and Field since primary school, I basically stated from the age of eight, so I have been doing Track and Field for over ten years on and off.

Julian Cruz
How has your training prepared you for what you are about to encounter?

I believe the training I have been doing for over the past year will pay off in this event and with the training along with the UB track team, I do expect us to bring back a medal, especially in the relay.

Julian Cruz
Do we expect you guys to bring back the goal?

Kimberly Spence

The Director of Sports and Recreation at UB, Darren Bovell, elaborated on the bold move to feature athletes in the various sporting disciplines.

Darren Bovell, Director, Sports and Recreation
We are finalizing our trip to the Huduga games in Guatemala, which is the Central American University games and we are taking five disciples, the volleyball male team, the football male team, the basketball male team and the Track and Field male and the female teams. So far this is the largest contingent we have ever taken to the Central American University games; we are taking forty-nine athletes this time. It has been a serious task because for the last three months, we have been trying to prepare all the paperwork, because it is a lot of paperwork that we have to do. We have insurance for players and registration for players and we had to do all of these individually. So we had an entire team working to get all this done; we have Mr. Neal who is the Dean of students, we have his secretary Ms. Vicky Quetzal who does all the paperwork, we have the Assistant Provost Dr. Thompson, we have Mr. Leon Leslie and all the other people from Accounts who are trying to make our payments for the people to register players and to get the bus, because we have a special bus that is coming all the way from Guatemala City to take us. So it is a lot of work.

The athletes are aiming for big wins and Bovell shared the plan for bringing home gold.

Darren Bovell
The anticipation is very high because we have been preparing for almost three months now and we have had local tournaments that we partake in and we have placed well. The volleyball team came in first in the division of the tertiary level institutions and the basketball teams came in first. Track and Field team, well it is the first time we have such a team, we donít really have track teams in Belize, we donít even have a track to work on, but we have been trying to make the best of all the plain surfaces that we can find. The football team has been working also with Mr. Morgan and Mr. Sangster. So we are very well prepared and we hope to bring back some medals.

When asked how UB hand picks and groom the best talents to showcase abroad Bovell gave an explanation.

Darren Bovell
The first we do is that we go our recruiting from all the different high schools and other institutions in Belize. We so go out and sell UB and the sports program that UB offers. So we try to get the best athletes in the country to represent at these games. The football team travelled to Guatemala a couple of times and we are just trying to give them the international experience as to the level of play in Central America and other parts of the world. The basketball team does a lot of travelling; we travel to Mexico a lot and partake in different tournaments. We went to an invitational tournament last year in El Salvador and we came in forth. So we are just trying to groom these guys and try to expose them to international play and probably get some of these guys some scholarships to get out of Belize.

Although UB offers athletic scholarships, individuals are expected to maintain a 2.5 GPA or better and the sports program has been transformed to afford athletes opportunities at a successful life beyond college sports.