Sport

2018 Digicel Grand Prix Athletics Championships launched

Saturday, February 03, 2018

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The fourth annual Digicel Grand Prix Athletics Championships, which was recently dubbed the Diamond League of youth athletics, was launched at Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston on Wednesday.

The series will take place across five championship meets from February 12 to March 10, 2018. The fifth and final meet, the G C Foster Classics, will serve as the 'finals' for the championships where the 'qualifiers' will vie for cash and prizes.

A number of changes were announced by Bruce James at the launch, including the addition of two events to the Grand Prix package. The 400m hurdles and the medley relay for girls and boys are the new events, bringing to 10 the number of championship events. The other eight events are 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, long jump, high jump, discus and 4x400m relay.

Speaking at the launch, regional sponsorship manager for Digicel, Andrew Brown, said: “This year, we expect the competition to be fiercer than ever before. The athletes are better prepared and have been working even harder for the glory of winning top school and most valuable athlete. We believe in well rounded athletes and developing the complete competitor. In this way, we enable positive youth development as competitors learn the value of positive socialisation, teamwork, taking responsibility and earning trust.”

Brown also announced that scholarships will be offered to athletes who break records, whether Championship or National Junior records.

James, technical head of Sulrickson Althletico, first-time organisers of the event, says that the Digicel Grand Prix is being designed similar to the Diamond League, based on its structure and qualifying system.

“To get to the Digicel Grand Prix Finals you have to go through a series of meets…four championships get you to qualify. The four champions from each of those meets will qualify automatically to go to the Digicel Grand Prix final, as well as the next four best in each of the various events. This is a true Diamond League format,” he explained.

Because the qualification system will draw the best athletes from the different regions of the island, the best athletes the country has to offer are expected to feature come “finals day”.

This year, with SportsMax as the media production partner for all five meets, event content will be even more accessible for the public through live broadcasts and via the Play Go app for track enthusiasts on the move. The series will start with the Eastern Champs on February 12 and 13 at National Stadium, and will be followed by the Anthrick Corporate Area Meet on February 15 and 16 at National Stadium.

The Grand Prix then goes to the other end of the island for the Western Champs on February 17 at Catherine Hall in Montego Bay, and then moves to G C Foster College on February 21 for Central Champs.

The high-impact series of events will culminate in the finals at the G C Foster Classics at National Stadium on March 10.

Eastern Champs, which will get the ball rolling, will feature schools from the parishes of St Thomas, St Mary, Portland and sections of St Andrew. Central Champs, from which the champions of “Girls' Champs” usually come, will feature schools from Manchester, Clarendon, St Catherine and St Ann.

Western Champs, which is hugely popular, will feature schools from St Elizabeth, Westmoreland, Hanover, St James and Trelawny, while the Corporate Area Meet will feature schools from Kingston and St Andrew only.

At the end of the Grand Prix there will be a champion male and female school as well as champion coaches. The champion schools will receive $1 million each, while the top coaches will receive, for first, second and third, $50,000, $30,000 and $20,000, respectively. This is the first time that winning coaches will be rewarded financially.

The G C Foster Classics will feature its usual events on Saturday March 3, but the “Grand Prix Finals” are expected to take up a three-hour window, beginning at around 5:00 pm.

— Dwayne Richards

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