Western Champs to adopt ISSA changes
IRWIN, St James — The County of Cornwall Athletics Association (COCAA), organisers of high school track and field in the county of Cornwall, including the Western High Schools Track and Field Championships, has opted to adopt the controversial changes made by the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) to the GraceKennedy National championships.
Two week ago, ISSA voted unanimously to make several changes to the number of events athletes can take part in at the ISSA GraceKennedy National Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships (Champs), effective this year.
COCAA Western Champs will be held over three days, between February 14 and 18, with the finals being held at the Montego Bay Sports Complex.
At a meeting held at Irwin High last Thursday, Stephen Smith, COCAA president, announced that the regional body would adopt the new changes, with one significant difference.
Unlike the national championships, COCAA Western Champs has competition in Class 4 for boys who are under 13 years old and are restricted to two events and one relay. They also only contest the 100m, 200m and 400m and unlike previous years will not be allowed to take part in the 3000m event.
“If we are to create the same atmosphere as Champs, we must conduct our championships under the same rules,” Smith reasoned.
“It is best to go with the flow and we will adopt the new rules this year as well.”
Among the changes that were made, even while the majority of the top high school coaches voiced strong opposition, are the boys 400m hurdles, which will now be contested in two classes, and not as an Open event; athletes taking part in track events will be restricted to two individual events and two relays, while field event athletes will have the option of doing three events - two field events and a relay; participants in the Heptathlon will be allowed just one other event; while the female 3000m steeplechase will now be restricted to Classes 1 and 2, the same for the boys contesting the 5000m.
ISSA had argued that the changes were being made in an effort to lessen the stress of the youngsters during the five-day Championships that will be held March 28 to April 1 this year.
The COCAA decision was not universally accepted, however, as several coaches asked that the changes be implemented next year, given the short notice.
Claude Grant, coach of Herbert Morrison Technical suggested that the COCAA Western Champs be held under the existing rules this year, adding that unlike the ISSA Championships, there was less wear and tear on the athletes who compete on two days than over a five-day span.
The Boys’ eliminations will be held on Tuesday February 14 and the Girls’ two days later, both at St Elizabeth Technical High School, with the finals set for February 18.
Grant further argued that unlike the ISSA Champs, a number of events at Western Champs are contested as straight finals with just one round, while others are two rounds, as opposed to three at the national level.
Machel Woolery the head coach at Petersfield pointed out that while the new rules would “hurt our chances in the boys’ section” he was willing to go along with the changes “as we will face the same challenges at Champs.”