After competing in both Puerto Rico and Cuba for the past 12 years, Team NSAF will make its debut in the Bahamas in 2018 – with this year’s meet set for Saturday, June 2 at the Grand Bahama Stadium in Freeport.
Team NSAF, with 28 outstanding prep track and field athletes from around the U.S., will assemble in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. on May 30, and then travel to Freeport the following day, May 31. Then Friday, June 1 will provide an opportunity for a brief pre-meet workout and to take in some of the Bahamian culture, with the meet against the Bahamian Junior Team (and possibly others) set for Saturday. Team NSAF will return to the States on Sunday, June 3.
The NSAF started the Caribbean Scholastic Invitational in 2006 in Puerto Rico, with the intent of providing rising star athletes – generally high school juniors considered Youth or Junior Team USA prospects – an opportunity for a first international team experience in a low-pressure environment. We continued to hold the meet in San Juan through 2013.In 2015 we were able to move the meet to Cuba (see this story for the history), giving our squad the amazing bounty of not only their first international team training and competitive experience, but the chance to do so as historic “athletic diplomats,” if you will, to the eternally unique city of Havana and it’s incomparable venue, Estadio Panamericano. It’s been something each of them will never forget – the team, the meet, the experience.
That team – featuring record-setters and future world champions like Noah Lyles, Grant Holloway and Anna Cockrell – battled many top Cuban Youth and Junior athletes to produce two days’ worth of stellar performances. The hospitality shown Team NSAF by our Cuban hosts was also unforgettable, highlighted by an opening ceremony that featured outstanding musical performances and a finale that featured both NSAF and Cuban teams in the stage waving their national flags together!The 2015 meet in Havana was essentially a Team NSAF-Cuba dual meet. Subsequent meets were part of the historic Memorial Barrientos, Cuba’s top international meet, which afforded opportunities for our team to compete against Youth/Junior athletes from multiple nations, as well as some Senior-level athletes.
With Estadio Panamericano undergoing renovations this year, the Memorial Barrientos was moved to June 15-17, the same weekend as NBNO. Now the move to Freeport gives Team NSAF athletes a chance for yet another unique cultural and competitive experience – while achieving the same goals.
Capped off by an inspirational meeting with Cuban Olympic legend Alberto Juantorena, Team NSAF experienced another tremendous Caribbean Scholastic Invitational trip in Havana in 2017.
After the final event, Juantorena joined the NSAF contingent at the behest of Tracy Sundlun, the NSAF board member who first met Juantorena during his historic 1976 Olympic 400-800 double. Sundlun and Juantorena together created the opportunity for CSI’s move to Cuba three years ago. During the talk, El Caballo pulled out one of his ’76 Montreal gold medals, looking as new as can be after nearly 41 years. He was accompanied by countrymen Javier Sotomayor – history’s only 8-foot high jumper (1993) and the 1992 Olympic gold medalist – and Anier Garcia, the 2000 110H Olympic gold medalist.Meanwhile, Team NSAF again competed strongly in the Memorial Barrientos