The debate might go one as regards to who is the top or most promising junior athlete in Guyana. This to a far extent depends from which side and what perspective you are looking at the issue, but top middle distance athlete Melisa Byass is ready to put her hand up and claim that prize.
The young lady, who lives at Lot 45 Stanleytown in New Amsterdam, is a fourth form student of the Berbice Educational Institute (BEI) and a member of the New Amsterdam Track Club.
Only 14yrs old, Byass made her mark at the last national School Athletics Cycling and swimming championship, which was held in November at the National Stadium against more season runners.
She emerge champion girl with some convincing runs in winning the 400M ,800M and 1500M in the U-16 category, to run unbeaten and be crowned champion girl in that category.
Although she has been going to the school national championship for a number of years, that performance has so far been the pinnacle of her career.
Melissa is a multitalented athlete and runs any distance from the 100M to the 1500M, having represented her district New Amsterdam/ Canje at all the above distances, with success. She started running since at primary school and was winning races at Nationals since at the U-12 level. She still holds the U-12 200M record which she set in 2007.
She decided to switch distance because she feels comfortable running the middle distances and feels the distances are more recognized and also based on the advice of her coach, Brian Moses, who she has been associated with for a mere five months.
It is no easy feat to win three events at the schools national athletic championships, which caters for all the top junior athletes in Guyana, more so to win them convincingly against more season athletes, being that it was her first year at the U-16 level.
It was hoped that she would have been herald as the new find, but amazingly not much has been said about the athlete. Being from rural Guyana it is more often than not a disadvantage for athletes coming from the countryside to gain recognition, but the petite and easy going athlete is up to and prepared for the challenge.
However, Melissa knows about disappointments having twice been selected to represent Guyana and being turned down. Her first disappointment was the 2007 CUT games when the authorities balked about lack of funds; she was among those dumped from the team. A similar situation occurred in 2009.
She is not too perturbed about all the media hype her opponents might be receiving, but is prepared to work hard to achieve her goal. Her ultimate aim is to one day represent Guyana at the Olympics and more so return with a medal. She fancies the 400M although her coach feels she is more comfortable in the 800M.
According to coach Moses, Melissa is bound for glory, “She is the best thing we have in the country, she is a very talented and dedicated athlete,” he proudly stated. He said that since he has been associated with her, she has shown marked improvement, thus her outstanding performance at the schools athletic championship. At that meet Melissa took revenge on some athletes who defeated her the year before.
She trains every day of the week with Monday to Friday being her main training days. Training is done both in the morning and the afternoon. Her morning activities entail doing drills, stretches and other light workouts.
Her major training is concentrated in the afternoons. She started training with now Guyana Defence Force head coach Robert Chisholm who spotted her talent early, after he left the area she was being assisted by former national junior athlete and national footballer Phillip Carrington.
Coach Moses spotted her as she was going through her paces one day during August at the Scott Church Ground New Amsterdam and she has been working with him since.
Not one to easily back down from a challenge, she hopes to make an even bigger impression this year.
Though still young her main focus in 2011 is to continue her upward sojourn and make the Guyana teams for the Junior Carifta and Inter Guiana games slated for later this year. She is also looking for another outstanding performance at this year’s National School’s athletics Championship.
Melissa Byass is definitely one to look for in the future. It is hoped that she gets the necessary attention and help from the relevant bodies including the AAG, the Department and Ministry of Sports, Olympic Association who could assist the youngster in realising her dreams and to do her country proud. (Samuel Whyte)
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