Track & field talent on show at JTA Sagicor Championships
THE Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) Sagicor National Athletics Championships has developed some of Jamaica's best athletes over the years through quality competition and strong coaching structures.
Some 800 schools are represented each year when the championships get under way in May.
Edwin Murray, meet manager, in reflecting on the process of selection leading up to the championships, said: "The meet is a national meet. It starts at the district, then parish level, where each parish has a coach, or what we call a parish coordinator. This year, Portland, St Andrew, Manchester, St Elizabeth and St Catherine are the parishes expected to battle for the title.
Murray added: "The winning parish will represent Jamaica at the bi-annual Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT) Track & Field Championships this year in Trinidad and Tobago."
Since the inception of the meet in 1988, the event has propelled many of the nation's star athletes who have gone on to represent Jamaica internationally. Records indicate that approximately 75 per cent of Jamaican athletes performing on the national and international scene within the last two decades are products of the championships, which have featured primary, all-age and junior high schools.
Merlene Smith, parish coordinator for 2013 parish champions St Andrew, in an interview at the launch of the 2014 Championships earlier this year, said: "Each year, we see an increase in talent. In fact, I think two Class One athletes to watch are Akeem Wallace, who is excellent at the 400 metres, and Anthony Haslam, who is known to deliver in the 100 and 200 metres."
Sagicor Life Jamaica has sponsored the two-day event, to the tune of $4.5 million, which highlights the talents of children in Under-9, Under-11, Under-13, Under-15 and Under-17 categories.
This year's meet will witness 52 event finals which will include long jump, high jump, cricket ball throw, along with a myriad of track events.
The Championships have been positioned as an important tool in the development of Jamaica's athletics and all eyes will again turn to the National Stadium tomorrow and Saturday, to unearth emerging talents from hundreds of primary,
all-age and junior high schools which will then be nurtured into quality athletes and human beings.