Sport

Fireworks expected at 38th staging of relay carnival

BY PAUL A REID Observer writer

Saturday, February 22, 2014    

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THE stage has been set for one of the most exciting Gibson Relays in years when the 38th running of the event gets underway this morning at the national stadium at 9:00 am with the heats of the high school boys 4x400m relays.

For nearly 12 hours, patrons will be thrilled with top-class competition in relays and selected individual events as the top high school teams start sizing each other up for the ISSA High Schools Championships that comes up in another month or so while the clubs and institutions athletes continue the start to their season.

Professor Rainsford Wilks, chairman of the organising committee, told the Jamaica Observer that everything is set and ready to go for one of the most prestigious relay carnivals.

“We have put in the work and we expect things to run smoothly. We have overcome the two potential technical issues (as) the pole vault is being rented from GC Foster and finish line camera which has been acting up is rented. I am unaware of any other threats,” Wilks pointed out.

Last year a record number of over 3,600 athletes from over 230 teams participated in the event with a breakdown of 97 high schools (52 boys and 45 girls teams), 55 clubs (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.

This year, the number of athletes are just above 3,300 but Ryan Peralto, a member of the organising committee, believes the quality makes up for the quantity. “Even though the numbers are not that high, many of the races are full. Many of the teams wanted to enter more races and take on more events,” noted Peralto.

“Unfortunately, we have to say to some people sorry, you didn't make this particular heat,” he added. The starting time will be 9:00 am with the running of the high school 4x400m relays preliminary and the opening ceremony will be 3:48 pm.

Today, in addition to the five relays that will be run across a variety of classes, there will be competition in the 100m and 400m Open for men and women, the long and high jumps as well as the return of the men's pole vault after it was not contested last year. There will also be the sprint hurdles for both sexes as well as the One-Mile run.

The UTech men's 4x100m team, which will be hoping to retain their Championships of Americas title at the Penn Relays later this year, could upstage the field in the Clubs/Institutions section, but will have to run faster than the 39.35 seconds they ran to win at the Milo Western Relays two weekends ago in Montego Bay.

If the Glen Millscoached Racers or Racers Lions are at full strength, then the race could be between the crack squads packed with world-class talent. After their win in the 4x400m two weeks ago, Cameron's Blazers will be confident they can repeat it today as well as adding the 4x200m title they lost to UTech.

The Sprint Tech women will challenge UTech and MVP, but the excitement could come in the high school section where expectations are high for a series of titanic battles. Kingston College won just two of 10 relays contested among high school boys last year, but after a master-class performance at the Milo Western Relays in Montego Bay two weeks ago, they will be looking to atone in a big way.

In Montego Bay, Kingston College won six of eight relays, including all four 4x100m races, all in new meet record times. They took the Class Two in a sparkling 40.84 seconds, minutes after the Class One team had run 40.03 seconds.

At the Camperdown Classic that same day, Calabar High with Michael O'Hara had run 40.04 seconds to win the Class One 4x100m and the clash between the two heated rivals could be worth gong miles to see. The 4x400m could live up to its top billing with a stirring battle expected between St Elizabeth Technical, St Jago High and Calabar High.

St Jago have the top billing after running a sizzling 3:10.40 minutes at Camperdown Classics, but Calabar and IAAF World Championships 4x400m silver medallist Javon Francis were missing.

The STETHS team is unbeaten so far with the best time 3:13.37 coming in yet another come-from-behind win at the COCAA Western Championships a week ago.

A week earlier at Western Relays, IAAF World Youth Championships relay gold medallist Okeen Williams had run past the anchor leg runners from Kingston College, Munro College and Holmwood Technical to win in 3:16.71.

Holmwood Technical, Edwin Allen High, St Jago high and Hydel will be fighting for the spoils in the girls section. While the top girls teams were battling it out in Montego Bay, St Jago swept all four high school girls 4x100m relays at the Camperdown Classic, but today will be the real test.

Hydel High will be favoured in Classes Two and Four with Holmwood Technical having the edge in Class Two and Edwin Allen look set to win Class One and the 4x400m after completely decimating the field in Montego Bay winning in 3:41.73, but must be wary of a veteran Vere Technical team that also run a sub 3:42.00 time in Kingston.

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