Western Ja-based track and field coaches express mixed views over continuation of seasonThursday, April 08, 2021
BY PAUL A REID
MONTEGO BAY, St James - There are mixed views among western Jamaica-based track and field coaches over whether the junior track and field season will continue following the latest interruption in late March due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.
While some of the coaches believe that the season will resume, others are fearful that the regional championships and the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) National Boys' and Girls' Athletics Championships (Champs) could be called off.
The County of Cornwall Athletics Association (COCAA) Western Championships, as well as two other regional championships, were put on hold after the track and field season was interrupted recently, and despite new dates being proposed, organisers are still awaiting approval from the various governmental agencies for resumption.
The proposed new dates for Western Champs is next Friday, April 16, at St Elizabeth Technical High School in Santa Cruz, following Eastern Champs on April 13 at the UWI-Mona and Central Champs on March 14 and 15 at GC Foster College in St Catherine.
Ronald McLean, the coach at Albert Town High in Trelawny, thinks the ISSA National Championships will be cancelled for a second-straight year, but Reynaldo Walcott, the coach at St Elizabeth Technical, is optimistic that “the powers that be” will find a way to ensure the season is completed.
Under the new qualifying format, the top two athletes from each track event from the regional championships will automatically qualify for the ISSA National Championships with the other spots to be filled by the next fastest times.
Machell Woolery, head coach at Petersfield High, believes there could be a need to change the qualifying format, if the regional championships cannot be held.
“There is a gut feeling that there is a possibility that Western Champs will not be held, and some think that Champs is also 50-50 based on the COVID rates coming out of the Easter break,” he told the Jamaica Observer West earlier this week.
“It's a tough one, and I hope something happens and probably we can revisit the qualifying system for Champs if there are no regional champs,” Woolery added.
McLean believes the chances of Champs being held “is extremely slim,” adding that among western-based schools only “the top five schools may be able to field small squads.”
He opined that there could be unwillingness on the part of the Government to grant permission for the resumption of the season, arguing that “there is no certainty that the Government agency responsible for giving the go ahead wants to do so, therefore, the annual Championship is still hanging in mid-air.”
The absence of a firm decision from the Government, he added, has resulted in some school principals being “tight-lipped, along with the run around from parents/guardians,” noting that this would result in no other option “but to call for another cancellation of the 2021 championships.”
Walcott was, however, more upbeat in his assessment.
“I feel optimistic that the powers that be will find a way to safely continue to allow the participation of the nation's athletes in competition as they have done recently,” he argued.
Claude Grant, the head coach at Herbert Morrison, told the Observer West that he has no anxieties as far as the matter is concerned.
“We are living in a new normal where health and safety is paramount for all,” as he expressed confidence that “the right thing will be done.”
“I am just hoping that the track record by Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association, based on the COVID-19 best practices, will permit the continuation so the student athletes can have a reason to compete, to earn a scholarship,” he said.
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