'CELEBRATING School Spirit, Everyone Is A Winner.'
That's the theme chosen by ISSA for this year's 103rd staging of the five-day ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls' Championship, which is expected to be bigger and better when it unfolds at the National Stadium from Tuesday, March 12, through Saturday, March 16.
The organisers of the event, which was officially launched yesterday at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston, have engineered a number of changes as they seek to fine-tune the event and make it more appealing for all stakeholders.
And indeed, everyone will be a winner, as seven-year title sponsor GraceKennedy, through its CEO Don Wehby, committed his company to a new five-year deal from next year through 2018. The company's contribution this year stands at $35 million.
LIME, through its Vice-President, Marketing, Carlo Redwood, also announced a new three-year $45-million sponsorship commitment; new Asian apparel company 361°, through its Jamaica representative Ajani Williams, announced a five-year, $23-million sponsorship package, in addition to individual school sponsorships, while Pepsi, by way of its Gatorade brand, also announced a sponsorship deal.
The apparel company 361° is a first-time sponsor of the event.
Approximately 105 boys' and 102 girls' teams will participate this year, according to Colleen Montague, chairperson, Champs Organising Committee.
Among the new additions this year is the introduction of an element certain to engage students on or off the track, and enthusiasts who just want to be part of the vibe and spirit of Champs. Persons will be invited to write and produce their own school cheers and submit them as part of the newly introduced Cheer Competition.
There are three main categories in which persons can enter -- current high school attendees; past students of an ISSA member school; and friends of Champs, local or overseas.
Participants are invited to log on to the ISSA website at www.issasports.com and its social media presence of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube that will integrate all the fans at home and abroad. The website will eventually showcase all sports disciplines and help disseminate real time information.
This year, ISSA conducted its registration online which was completed on February 15. There were a few challenges, but all schools wishing to participate were duly registered, said Montague, who noted that deadline for entries has been extended and will close at 4:00 pm on Friday.
Over the years, there has been an increasing demand for Champs tickets, particularly for the Saturday action, and though the organisers have not been able to increase the number of tickets available, they have decided to utilise the same point of sale locations as last year.
Pre-sold tickets go on sale at five locations on Saturday, March 9, from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm at the following locations only -- ticket turnstile inside the National Stadium; Titchfield High School in Port Antonio; Cornwall College in Montego Bay; St Elizabeth Technical High School in Santa Cruz; and Manchester High in Mandeville.
Patrons will be able to access tickets again on Tuesday, March 12 through to Saturday, March 16 at the Stadium Ticket Office.
Access to the National Stadium on Tuesday, March 12 will be free to all patrons, and complimentary tickets will be made available at all pre-sold ticket locations and at the Stadium Ticket Office on the day.
On Wednesday, March 13, and Thursday, March 14, it will cost children $100 and adults $500 for the Grandstand, only; Friday the price increases to $2,000 for Grandstand Regular and $500 for Bleachers; on Saturday, it will be $3,000 Grandstand Regular and $1,000 Bleachers, while season tickets (premium) Category One is $6,000 and Category Two in $5,000.
On the start date of Tuesday, March 12, action starts at 2:30 pm and ends at 7:00 pm with 14 preliminary events. The following day, action gets underway at 8:30 am and ends at 10:00 pm, with 40 events and six field events finals, inclusive of girls' and boys' steeplechase.
There will be a parade of schools and the meet will be declared open.
On Thursday, it will be an 8:15 am start and a 9:15 pm end time, with athletes competing in 57 events and five field events, while on Friday, March 15, action gets going at 8:30 am and ends 13 hours later, after 61 events and 25 finals, inclusive of the high and long jumps, the 100 metres hurdles, plus the much-anticipated 100 metres finals for girls and boys in all classes.
This year there will no longer be an opening ceremony, instead, five stalwarts will be recognised for their achievements. They are athletes Maurice Wignall and Nickole Mitchell; track official Ian Forbes; and coaches Maurice Wilson and Donald Hawthorne.
On the final day of Saturday, March 16, gates will open at 10:00 am and action starts at 1:30 pm with 54 finals.
And the curtains fall with a one-hour entertainment package.
"GraceKennedy feels very strongly about two areas: sports and education. For that reason we invest heavily in both, because we know their potential to change lives and change Jamaica," noted Wehby, in his address.
He added: "It is the single largest investment in any sponsorship across the GraceKennedy Group. This is where Usain (Bolt), Shelly-Ann (Fraser-Pryce), Asafa (Powell), Yohan (Blake), Weir (Warren), Parchment (Hansle), and many others before them go their first tastes of competition.
"Let's not forget the greats -- Herb McKenley, Donald Quarrie, Merlene Ottey -- the list goes on. No doubt there are many more big names to come. This investment is an investment in sports and youth, an investment in those future athletes, an investment in nation building. And GraceKennedy is very committed to that," he concluded.
Meanwhile, Redwood said that LIME, who has been a sponsor for the past six years, values the occasion of Champs and will be pulling out all the stops to ensure that all patrons have a first-class mobile and telecom experience during the event. A such LIME will be "offering what can only be described as a real champion offer -- not only will patrons be able to purchase phones as low as $999, but they will receive a super pre loaded SIM card with a seven-day mobile internet plan, $100 credit and 90 free international minutes".