Farcical end to Digicel Grand Prix Champs

By Dwayne Richards
Observer writer

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

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The farcical end to the fourth staging of the Digicel Athletics Grand Prix/G C Foster Classics left a bitter taste in the mouths of a number of track and field fans at the National Stadium Saturday night.

After what had been a fairly well-executed event, the happenings during the final event of the day spoiled everything for the neutrals and even left some fans booing.

Calabar High went into the 4x400m final heavy favourites after the quartet of Shemar Chambers, Christopher Taylor, Anthony Carpenter and Malik James-King had set a world high school 4x400m record of 3:05.04 minutes at the Corporate Area Development Meet only a few weeks ago.

With the same quartet facing the starter, few inside the stadium, if any at all, doubted that they would win. However, the Calabar first-leg runner, Chambers, clearly false-started, then stopped, while the other seven first-leg runners took off. He then threw the baton to the ground in disgust as the race went off.

The starters failed to recall the race immediately and did not do so until the race was about 150m in. There was a huge huddle on the infield as the officials tried to come to a decision on what to do next. A visibly upset David Riley, head coach of the Excelsior High track and field team, was seen in heated discussions with officials during that time.

Riley withdrew his team in protest over the officials' decision to rerun the race with Calabar included, but declined to comment on the incident.

Seven teams eventually contested the final with Calabar winning in 3:07. Jamaica College were second in 3:12.76 and Edwin Allen third in 3:15.40.

Calabar were also crowned Digicel Grand Prix champions after they scored 146 points to dethrone St Jago who finished second with 74 and Kingston College third with 54.5 points. Jamaica College, 43 points, and Petersfield High on 39 points rounded out the top five on the boys' side.

Dr Carol Long, who is a veteran official, said the officials needed to own up to their mistakes as their credibility was now being called into account.

“The officials blundered, it shows lack of credibility on the officials, we are not transparent. We can't keep doing these things. What they will say is that it happened last year to this other person, so we can do it this year to this person,” she suggested.

“We need to have transparency, as officials we have to act professionally and we need to own our own (mistakes) as officials, we can't continue,” Long insisted.

A veteran starter who witnessed the event gave his thoughts on the incident.

“I would not have called it back. I am hearing the athlete did not hear the set command.”

He sought to explain from a starter's perspective.

“My thing is, you are starting and I am recalling... two signals are given by the recalling starter — when the athletes are told to get on their marks — a hand goes up, when the starter says set and everyone gets into position — a fist is made,” he outlined.

“If the athlete didn't go into the set position, why was a fist made? If the fist was made that means the athlete was in position, so what is the issue that the athlete did not hear the set command? How did lane eight hear the command, lane six hear the command and lane seven didn't hear the command when you are using an amplified system? Why, why?” asked the bemused veteran.

Jamaican Olympian Bertland Cameron was seething in his remarks.

“It was a letdown, because the Calabar team had picked the start and I thought that they were going to stop the race as soon as it happened, but they allowed the race to go at 150m and then called it back.”

He believes that the other participating schools were penalised for playing by the rules.

“At the same time, I thought they were gonna take out the Calabar team, they did not. The other seven teams already run 150m, they gave them a couple minutes (to rest) and sent them back, so they got penalised for waiting for the start and the Calabar boys were rested for picking the start.”

Cameron made it known that he had no ill will towards Calabar, but lashed out at the officials for sending the wrong signals.

“I like Calabar, I think Calabar is doing so great, but at the same time what are our decision-making people teaching the kids? They are teaching them that hey, because you are a star you can pick and come back in, I don't like that,” he said in disgust.

Many persons were asking virtually the same question after the race, would the same decision have been made if it was a “lesser” school?

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