Thursday 13 December, 2018

Digicel Grand Prix Finale takes spotlight on Saturday

All roads lead to the National Stadium on Saturday for the end of the 2018 Digicel Grand Prix Athletics Championship.

The Digicel Grand Prix Athletics Championship, in its fourth year,  is a five-series development meet for high schools, which comprises four regional meets and a Grand Finale - the G C Foster Classics - which takes place on Saturday.

The G C Foster Classics is scheduled to start at 8:30 am with the Digicel Grand Prix events taking place from 5:02 pm to 8:24 pm.

The first Grand Prix event is the Girls' Under-18 400m Hurdles Open final at 5:02 pm. The Grand Prix will end with the  Boys' Under-20 4x400m Relay final at 8:24 pm.

The 200 metres are scheduled to begin at 6:40 pm with the 100 metres at 7:24 pm.

There are 10 Digicel Grand Prix events. Those events are the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, long jump, high jump, discus, 4x400m relay, medley relay and the 400m hurdles.

To be eligible for the Grand Prix Finale athletes had to compete at the four regional meets where they were placed in two age categories. For the males (Class 1 athletes competed in one age category, while Class 2 and Class 3 athletes completed in the other age category) and for females (Class 1 and 2 competed in one age category and Class 3 and 4 in the other age category).

This means that only the fastest time in a Grand Prix event in each age category at each of the four regional meets automatically qualified for the Grand Finale.  The four automatic winners in each of the 10 Digicel Grand Prix event from the four regional meets will be joined by the next four best to compete in the Grand Prix Finale.

Based on what have transpired at the four regional meets of the Grand Prix Series, Calabar High, which lost to St Jago High by just 1.5 points last year and three-time defending champions Edwin Allen will enter the Grand Prix Finale as the teams to beat for the boys and girls' titles.

Calabar High dominated the Corporate Area Championships, the second regional meet of the Digicel Grand Prix Series, at the National Stadium. At the end of the two-day meet on February 16, Calabar High topped the male team score and in the process dethroned the 2017 champions Kingston College (KC).

Calabar piled up 491 points, 102-point clear of second-place KC, which finished with 389 points. Jamaica College (226), Wolmer's (171) and Excelsior (105) round off the top five in the male team scores.

Edwin Allen had to stave off a strong challenge from Holmwood Technical to retain their title at Central Championships, the fourth regional meet of the  Digicel Grand Prix Series, at G C Foster College in Spanish Town on February 21.

After a ding-dong battle with Holmwood Technical on the final day, Edwin Allen High pulled away for a 41.50-point victory after entering the day with a 66-point lead.

Although Edwin Allen are expected to win the girls' title at the Grand Finale, the Frankfield-based school will be strongly challenged by Holmwood Technical and Hydel High, which starred at the Gibson McCook Relays last Saturday.

Edwin Allen High top sprinter Kevona Davis and Holmwood Technical's Michae Harriott  will be among the athletes to watch on the day.

Davis and Harriott were both in record breaking for at Central Championships.

Davis romped the Girls' Class 2 200 metres in 23.61 to erase the previous record of 23.99 seconds she set in the preliminary round; while Harriott accounted for the Girls' Class 1 200 metre meet record, winning the event in 23.56 to erase the previous mark of 23.83 set in 2016 by her teammate Ashley Williams.

Tia Clayton, also of Edwin Allen should also gain a lot of attention after she powered home to easily win the Girls' Class 3 final in a record 11.83 seconds at Central Championships.

Among the events that should create big interest, outside of the marquee races (100m, 200m and 400m) are the Boys' 4x400-metre relay and the Boys' Class 1 discus.

Calabar have set a very high standard in the Boys' 4x400-metre relay and all eyes will be on the team on Saturday.

At the Corporate Area Championship, the quartet of Anthony Carpenter, Christopher Taylor, Shemar Chambers and Malik James-King clocked an eye-popping 3 minutes 05.04 seconds, a time which represents the fastest ever recorded by a Jamaican High School team.

Jamaica College set the previous Jamaican high school record 21 years ago at the Mutual Life Games at the National Stadium. The quartet of Rudolph Mighty, Edward Clarke, Carl McPherson and Rupert Eldemire clocked 3 minutes 06.56 seconds then to set the record.

Calabar will be racing the clock again in the 4x400m reay as their main rival KC will be absent.

KC, the second-fastest schoolboy team this year,  won at the Gibson McCook Relays in 3 minutes 09.98, after not fielding a team when Calabar clocked the eye-popping 3 minutes 05.04 seconds at the Corporate Area Championships.

The Boys' Under-20 discus has emerged in the spotlight after the big favourite Roje Stona of St Jago High had his colours lowered a week ago.

Calabar High's Kai Chang had a personal best throw of 58.33m to hand  Stona his first defeat in two years in the Boys' Class 1 discus. As a result of Chang's performance, a big rematch with Stona is in store on Saturday.

Calabar will be hard to beat in the sprint relays after dominating at the Corporate Area Championships.

Calabar won the four sprint relays, relegating KC to second place each time, along with the 1600-metre sprint medley relay.

The Michael Clarke-coached school shattered two relay meet records on the day.

Those record came in the Boys' Class 1 4x100-metre relay and the 1600-metre sprint medley.

In the Boys' Class 1 4x100-metre relay, Calabar won in 39.96 seconds to erase the previous record of 41.25 seconds posted by Excelsior High in 2016.

In the 1600-metre sprint medley relay, Calabar posted 3 minutes 29.16 seconds  to erase their mark of 3 minutes 30.05 seconds posted in the preliminary round, the day before.

At the end of the Grand Finale, the winning teams (boys and girls) will be rewarded with the title of Digicel Grand Prix champion and $1 million each towards gym equipment or development of their school’s training facilities.

There will also be an overall second and third place cash prizes of $500,000 and $200,000 respectively.

Record-breaking athletes on the day will be rewarded with cash for their schools.

Digicel will pay $25,000 for each championship record and $50,000 for each national junior record.

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