PM commissions new Calabar track with race of her own

BY SHERDON COWAN Observer staff reporter cowans@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, January 22, 2016

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The new 400m synthetic track of Calabar High, which has won the ISSA Boys’ Athletic Championships for the last four years, was officially opened at the Red Hills Road-based campus yesterday.


The track, which is the pet project of minister with responsibility for sport, Natalie Neita-Headley, is the first to be laid in a high school in Jamaica, and by extension, the English-speaking Caribbean.


The historic landmark forms part of the $250-million high school sports infrastructure improvement programme, which will be carried out by the Sports Development Foundation (SDF) in 24 schools across Jamaica.


The inaugural McKenley/Wint Classic scheduled for today, will be the first meet to be staged on the new track.


Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller commended those involved in the groundbreaking initiative during the ribbon-cutting proceedings.


"One of the main reasons for Jamaica’s sporting success is the strength of our youth programme at the school and community level. I commend everyone involved in these sport programmes," She said while addressing those in attendance.


"I want to commend the Calabar tTrust, its Board of Management and Old Boys Association for this major undertaking to keep the Calabar flag flying high proudly in sport. This new sporting complex and track will go a long way towards ensuring that you realise that goal. The government has been doing our part to support the development of talent at the schools and community levels," Simpson Miller added.


Former Prime Minister and distinguished Calabar Old Boy, PJ Patterson, also addressed the gathering.


Meanwhile, Neita-Headley, expressed sheer delight at the completed project which is said to have cost approximately $66 million.


"It is a fantastic day for me; certainly it was one of my dreams, it was one of those things that I had in mind; it was one of the things I would have wanted to accomplish in my term as minister," she told journalists after the official ribbon-cutting exercise.


"I think when I first approached Calabar they already had a grand plan for their sports complex. However, having approached them with the idea of the high school sports infrastructure programme, they were ready and willing to partner with us to make this a reality.


"So today (Friday), I am ecstatic and it augurs well for high school sport development, but it also ensures that our sprinting success and track and field success across the world will continue for a long time to come. I am very pleased," the minister continued.


Principal of Calabar High, Albert Corcho, was also elated.


"This is phenomenal; we are excited and Calabar again remains number one, but I think this is beyond just Calabar. I think the country has a lot to benefit from putting down this track at Calabar [but] we want to use it appropriately and we have to educate not just the Calabar athletes, but all those who come and use it," Corcho told the
Jamaica Observer.


He added: "This is an investment in new development, so we are happy this has started at Calabar and we are going to ensure that our boys take very good care of it. It took us about two and a half years and we are happy that it is completed," he said.


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