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RELIEF!

Western Ja-based coaches welcome return of track and field

BY PAUL A REID
Observer West writer
reidp@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, April 22, 2021

The approval for the return of track and field by the Government and the staging of the County of Cornwall Athletics Association (COCAA) Western Champs and the ISSA Boys' and Girls' Championships has been met with relief and joy by western–based track and field coaches.

As a result, the COCAA Western Champs will be held next week, April 29, at the St Elizabeth Technical Sports Complex in Santa Cruz with the ISSA championships set for the National Stadium from May, 11-15.

There were fears that the current situation with the coronavirus pandemic, the Government would have withheld the approval to return to competition and the subsequent cancellation of the championships.

If the Government had withheld approval, it would have been two years running without the ISSA Championships and some coaches thought that would have had a negative effect on the sport and the athletes.

Stephen Smith, president of COCAA, said it was great that the athletes will get the chance to compete, while coaches Reynaldo Walcott of St Elizabeth Technical (STETHS) and Machel Woolery of Petersfield High also welcomed the decision.

“It's a good feeling now that track and field is back,” Smith told the Jamaica Observer West, adding that he was confident that the meets would have gone ahead.

“I was pretty confident that the Government would have allowed the restart of track and field because we had meets that were held under strict protocols and they saw that we were trying hard and this will help to clear the path to students getting scholarship offers,” Smith argued.

Walcott, the head coach of the STETHS boys' and girls' teams, was beaming when he told the Observer West that, “I am extremely happy that the Government has shown faith in the JAAA [Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association] and ISSA to organise safe championships, and I am extremely grateful that the student-athletes get an opportunity to maximise their abilities in this field as others get to do in other areas such as academics,” he said.

Western Champs was usually held in mid- February.

Walcott said, however, that he is not too concerned with the over two months delay.

“The dates are not too much of a bother in respect to other more significant factors such as whether we would have a championship or not.

We are happy that the regional champs and the ISSA Champs will be held and at least some of the athletes will get a chance to compete and they are looking forward to it in more ways than one,” he said.

“This will help to release some of the stress now that they know that they have something to look forward to, after they had been training so long.”

Woolery added, however, that he had hoped that there would be more time between the ISSA Champs and Western Champs events.

“Western Champs is part of the picture right now, pity it is so close to [ISSA] Champs, but we will have to adjust where it is necessary,” he stressed.