Regional

Absence of track in MoBay could hurt Jamaica's track and field

The Sporting EDGE

The EDGE Sporting With Paul Reid

Thursday, October 17, 2019

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As the celebrations from the recently staged IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar continues, preparations for the 2020 season leading up to the Olympics Games in Tokyo, Japan, has started in some quarters.

While the senior stars from Doha will be taking a short break, as trials for the Olympics are nine months away, high school athletes started their preparations in late August as their season will kick off come mid-December.

Sadly, however, after a lot of noise earlier, a pall of silence has surrounded the replacement of the artificial running track at Montego Bay Sports Complex, and as a result, little, if any, track and field activity will be held in Montego Bay as, despite repeated promises from both the city's Mayor Councillor Homer Davis and Minister of Sports Olivia “Babsy” Grange, work is yet to start on the complex's track, and it is likely that nothing will happen for a while yet.

The lack of track and field activity at the complex would be a real shame given the role that the track in Montego Bay has played in the development of the sport, not just in western Jamaica, but in the entire island.

Not too long ago, Montego Bay Sports Complex was a hotbed of activities with no fewer than four meets being held here — Country of Cornwall Athletics Association (COCAA) Western Champs, Milo Western Relays, Western Primary Championships, as well as the Community College Championships.

Since last year, all of these meets and others have had to be moved elsewhere, as the track that was laid in 2002 was deemed no longer fit to stage track and field meets.

Of the 55 athletes who represented Jamaica at the Doha World Championships, at least 40 have competed at Montego Bay Sports Complex, either at Western Champs or at the Western Relays that have over the years attracted most of the top high schools, colleges and club teams to Montego Bay in mid-February.

The Western Primary Championships has helped to produce dozens of athletes who are now attending or have been part of the very best high school track and field teams in the island and a number have gone on to represent Jamaica at the youth and junior levels.

Not to mention scores that have been able to get scholarships to tertiary institutions here and in the United States.

Last December, the minister of sports gave a timeline for the work to be started at the sports complex, telling Jamaica Observer West that due to “logistics” the track would not be able to be repaired by early February 2019.

“We have the stadium east track that has been a concern and I have been able to secure the funds to do that in time for the Gibson Relays...and the next track to get attention will be the one in Montego Bay,” the minister, who was at a civic ceremony to honour the FIFA World Cup-bound Reggae Girls football team held in Sam Sharpe Square.

She said, “the logistics dictates that we could not repair the Montego Bay track in time, but I have instructed the Sports Development Foundation (SDF) to include it in their budget so it will be done.”

Since then neither the minister nor the mayor have been able to say if or when anything would be done.

Doha medallists Rushell Clayton, then of Frome Technical and Stephenie Ann McPherson of Manning's School got their early exposure at the Catherine Hall sports complex.

New long jump superstar Tajay Gayle had his first 8.00-m jump at the Montego Bay Sports Complex, just two years ago at the Milo Western Relays in 2017, and all members of both women's relay teams, as well as some of those who ran on the men's 4x400m and the Mixed Relay teams that also won medals, have all benefited from competing at the Montego Bay Sports Complex in recent times.


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