ALOR SETAR: Sarawak are seeking a fifth consecutive overall champions crown when the five-day National Schools Sports Council (MSSM) Track and Field Championships kicks off at the Darulaman Stadium on Saturday.
Last year, the Hornbills took home 15 gold medals from Pahang for their fourth straight title.
The bad news for the other contingents is that Sarawak are eyeing an improved performance in Alor Setar this year, and feel that they are capable of amassing 18 golds to defend their overall title.
“Although much will depend on the performance on the day, I believe that the Sarawak athletes can win a fifth overall title in a row with an improved golden haul,” said the Sarawak schools athletics technical chairman Ting Siew Nguong.
“We have a younger, but balanced squad compared to previous years. Our strength is not focused in only one age-group, and we are confident of producing champions in all age categories and also in both the track and field events.”
Leading Sarawak’s charge will be the last year’s MSSM championships best male athlete Quek Lee Yong, who won the Under-15 110m and 200m hurdles gold medals in Pahang.
“It’s not easy to win, or for that matter, defend the MSSM athletics overall title because all our competitors also improve each year.
“I expect the strongest challenge to Sarawak’s title defence to come from our usual rivals Perak, Selangor and Sabah,” said Siew Nguong.
Pahang, who finished fifth overall last year with 10 gold medals, are looking at gatecrashing the so-called “big four” group of Sarawak, Selangor, Perak and Sabah in the final medals tally.
The squad from the east coast state had began their preparations for the Alor Setar meet immediately after last year’s championships had ended.
“We brought all the talents from the various districts for two-day centralised traninings in Kuantan once every fortnight over the past one year,” said the Pahang schools athletics coaching chairman Alias Abdul Razak.
“We will be banking on our track athletes, especially the sprinters, to help us in our golden hunt to get into the top four in the medals tally.”
The highlight of the opening day’s programme on Saturday is the 100m and 800m events for the three (Under-12, Under-15 and Under-18) age-groups.