January 30 – The news that the Eastern Championships for track and field has been cancelled is disheartening. What this means is, about 25 schools will miss an opportunity to compete against each other and those athletes in St. Mary, St. Thomas, Portland, sections of St. Catherine and St. Andrew won’t have an equal opportunity to have times, distances and records on display.
In 2010, Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCO) partnered for the event sponsorship under the banner of the Eastern Secondary Schools Sports Association (ESSSA). Since then the meet has grown and is as a qualifier for the ISSA Boys and Girls Championships; this meet has to be seen as important.
Maybe we have missed the real value of how and what rural Jamaica has contributed to performances over the last 50 years. Without calling the long list of names, it is high time organisations which have responsibilities for our sport make decisions that are in the best interest of the sport, in this case, track and field’s development.
Over the last six years those schools within the ESSSA have done considerably well and is an indication that the technical expertise of the teachers, coaches and managers have meant something. Carron Hall entered a team a few years ago. St Mary High School has had athletes on the national junior teams and so much more has happened. The cancellation of this meet has also prevented students from getting bursaries and support for their education and so much is really missing.
The appeal is therefore to ISSA as the governing body to exercise the force of your arm to ensure this meet takes place. My checks reveal it is an ISSA-endorsed event and that endorsement must have been worth something. Dr Walton Small and his team should meet urgently to seek to resolve this issue and it should be done now to ensure that the next generation of Olympians and national representatives have a fair chance to compete.
We are looking at up to J$3million for the two-day meet due the second week in February. It would be a travesty not to have this meet. I quote Dahlia Harris to end this appeal – “When Sport and Art are left to the open market of commercialization, we are only condemning the nation.”