Digicel Grand Prix: Urban schools in big showdown at National Stadium
The 2018 Digicel Grand Prix Athletics Championship gets into high gear on Thursday with the start of the two-day Corporate Area Championships at the National Stadium, beginning at 9:00 am.
There will be 14 finals on the opening day. Among the finals will be the Girls' Class 1 discus throw, Girls' Class 1 high jump and Girls' Class 4 long jump, all scheduled to begin at 9:00 am.
The Digicel Grand Prix Athletics Championship is a five-series development meet for high schools, which comprises four regional meets and a Grand Finale - the GC Foster Classics - at the National Stadium on March 10.
The Corporate Area Championships is the second regional meet and features schools from the corporate area.
The series began on Monday with Eastern Championships, which ended on Tuesday at the National Stadium, while the third and penultimate regional meet - Western Championships enters its second day on Thursday.
Western Championships, which produced four meet records on Tuesday's opening day at the St Elizabeth Technical Sports Complex in Santa Cruz, will have its third and final day on Saturday at the Catherine Hall Sports Complex.
For this year, the Digicel Grand Prix Athletics Championship has attracted two new events to bring the total to 10.
The two new Grand Prix events are the 400m hurdles and the medley relay, which have been added to the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, long jump, high jump, discus and 4x400m.
Apart from the two new events, organisers have changed the process by which athletes qualify for the Grand Finale (the GC Foster Classics).
For the Grand Prix Series, athletes are placed in two age categorie. For the males (Class 1 athletes compete in one age category, while Class 2 and Class 3 athletes compete in the other age category) and for females (Class 1 and 2 compete 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 qualify for the Grand Finale. As a result, 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.
Kingston College (KC) and Excelsior High are the defending boys and girls champions for the Corporate Area Championships.
Again, the Corporate Area Championships will feature most of the top athletes from the prominent high schools. KC, which tallied 344 points last year, to easily win the boys' title, will be hard-pressed to retain their title by Calabar High based on what has transpired so far during the season.
Calabar High finished second last year with 228.5 points, while Jamaica College ended third with 202.
Excelsior High piled up 381.5 points for the girls' title last year to beat Camperdown High (260) and The Queen's School (250).
The Digicel Grand Prix series has attracted cash prizes.
One again, school teams (boys and girls) will vie for 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 at the Grand Prix Finale - the GC Foster Classics at the National Stadium on March 10 - 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.
In addition, Digicel will reward every athlete who qualifies to run at the Grand Prix Finale with $5,000 each for their school.
There will also be cash prizes for the top three finishers (boys and girls) at each of the four regional meets. First place is guaranteed $250,000, with second getting $100,000 and third place, $50,000.
Coaches will also be rewarded with cash prizes between $20,000 to $50,000.
This year, with SportsMax as the media production partners for all five meets, event content will be even more accessible for the public through live broadcasts and via the Play Go app for track enthusiasts on the go.
GRAND PRIX SERIES
Eastern Champships (February 12 – 13 at National Stadium)
Corporate Championships (February 15 – 16 at National Stadium)
Western Championships (February 13, 15 & 17 at Catherine Hall Sports Complex)
Central Championships (February 20 - 21 at GC Foster College)
Grand Prix Finale - GC Foster Classics - (March 10 at National Stadium)