Sport

Gibson-mania - Annual relays runs off with record numbers

Record numbers for Gibson Relays

BY PAUL A REID Observer Writer reidp@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, February 23, 2013    

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A record number of over 3,600 athletes from over 230 teams are down to take part in today's 37th staging of the Gibson Relays at the National Stadium set to get underway at 9:30 am with the heats of the high schools boys' 4x400m relays.

All-age groups from prep/primary, through all-age/junior high to high schools and clubs/institutions will take part in the event, which chairman of the organising committee Professor Rainford Wilkes said will be another "highly anticipated day of top-class rivalry" in all classes.

Professor Wilkes told the Jamaica Observer yesterday they are expecting full fields for most of the events. "We are oversubscribed in almost every event, and this is the biggest number of entries we have ever had," he said.

The breakdown of teams shows 97 high schools with 52 boys' and 45 girls' teams; 55 clubs with 32 men and 23 women; 28 junior high schools; 16 prep; and 19 primary schools; eight masters team, including a female team and eight Special Olympics teams.

The closeness of the ISSA national high school championships might have contributed to the increased entries, the chairman suggested. "This might be the last opportunity to test the athletes in the relays and some other events... and there is not a better way to get that test than the Gibson Relays," said Wilkes.

There will be a moment of silence during the opening ceremony in honour of the late Neville 'Teddy' McCook, the founder of the event, while members of the organising committee will wear black arm bands.

There was an invitation to the McCook family to attend the opening ceremony, but with the official funeral service set for tomorrow, that was said to have been politely declined.

Professor Wilkes hesitated to name any of the elite athletes who were expected to take part, but said "we have names on entries but we don't know what can happen between then and now".

While the high schools are expected to be out in their numbers, as they seek any advantage going into Champs in two weeks' time, the clubs/institutions relays, which promises clashes between the talented Racers and MVP, could take the spotlight.

An MVP team with Asafa Powell and Nesta Carter ran 38.63 seconds to win at the Milo Western Relays two weeks ago, beating a UTech team that ran 38.80 seconds.

A Racers team, including any combination of double World Record holder Usain Bolt, World Championships 100m champion Yohan Blake, Olympic Games bronze medallist Warren Weir and up-and-coming sprinter Kemar Bailey-Cole could threaten the meet record 38.08 seconds set by a Racers quartet in 2010.

Racers are also the defending champions, winning last year without Bolt in 38.48 seconds.

The University of Technology women had a field day at Western Relays, and unless MVP can field full-strength teams, could dominate today's events as well.

Based on results so far this season, the Class One boys' 4x100m could be a straight shoot-out between Kingston College and Green Island High, the winners and runners-up at Western Relays in 40.28 seconds and 40.37 seconds, respectively.

A fit Munro College team, led by Delano Williams, could put them in the picture as well, while Jamaica College's Class Two team ran a meet record 40.76 last year.

The high school boys' 4x400m could be another of the closely contested events tonight with defending Manchester High the leaders so far this season after running 3:11.64 to win at the Camperdown Classic, beating St Jago High's 3:12.91.

That same day, at Western Relays, Munro College won in 3:13.12 ahead of Kingston College's 3:18.11 seconds.

Once again, Holmwood Technical and Edwin Allen High, the two teams that have dominated Girls' Champs over the last decade, are expected to battle out for the honours in the girls' section.

The addition of Chanice Bonner, who sat out last season after transferring from The Queen's School, will give Holmwood Technical an edge in the absence of the overseas club teams Jamaica Bickle of New York and Flying Angels of Canada that took part over the past few years.

Holmwood and Edwin Allen shared the honours in the 4x100m races at Western Relays, their most recent clashes. Holmwood won the Class One and Two, while Edwin Allen took Class Three and Four.

Vere Technical will seek to have a say in the Class One 4x100m, which they won last year in 45.63 seconds as well as the 4x400m which they won at Camperdown Classic in 3:38.55.

A devastating anchor by Claudette Allen at Western Relays gave Edwin Allen a come from behind win in the 4x400m.

Nine individual events will also be contested today, including the long and high jumps Open, the 100m an 400m for both men and women and the pole vault.

Clive Pullen will defend the men's long jump, after winning the last two events at Western Relays as well, and will be up against Leon Wray and Tarick Edwards as his main competitors.

UWI Mona's Kimberly Williamson will start favourite to win the women's high jump after placing second last year when she competed for Edwin Allen High.

Wolmers' Boys' Christoff Bryan, who battled a hamstring injury earlier in the season, will also defend the high jump title after retaining his title at Western Relays and will seek to go better than the 2.13m he cleared last year.

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