Sat | Dec 3, 2016

Petersfield High Off to Penn

Published:Tuesday | April 21, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Irwine Claire

Petersfield High School, located in the sugar cane belt of central Westmoreland, is abuzz with excitement. For the first time in the school's history, a team of 16 track and field athletes will compete at the prestigious 121-year old Penn Relays Carnival in the United States. The team and their teachers leave for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, later this week to prove their athletic prowess at the Grace Foods sponsored event that is described as the largest annual gathering of Jamaicans outside of New York City.

The school's track & field coach, Machell Woolery, is as excited about this first opportunity as are many of the 1,800 students who attend the school, other staff members, parents and their friends.

"Our athletes here at Petersfield High School are extraordinarily talented", he told The Gleaner. "As the western champions for high school athletics, they certainly deserve to go, and this is something we've wanted to do for years so as to take advantage of a range of scholarships and other opportunities, but we never had the resources to make this possible", Woolery continued.

rallying support

This year, a miracle happened. After the school's impressive 7th place showing for the boys at the ISSA Boys and Girls' Champs in Kingston, Woolery was more determined than ever to make the Penn Relays dream a reality. He reached out to Team Jamaica Bickle's CEO, Irwine Clare, about the team's plight of finding the resources to participate at Penn Relays.

Clare looked at the team's remarkable accomplishments, including the fact that two members on the team, Devon Ellington and Sanjay Lawrence, are ranked internationally in the 400m and the shot put, respectively. Clare saw this as a priority and he, in turn, reached out to a number of Good Samaritans in New York who quickly offered to help with airline tickets and other forms of support. New York resident Anthony Turner, who happens to be from Petersfield, also made a call to one past student who immediately secured additional tickets, thereby enabling a stronger team to travel.

"I am thrilled that Team Jamaica Bickle was able to rally support for Petersfield High School to get to the Penn Relays", Clare said.

Those who provided assistance were Patrick Jolly of Tower Isle Patties, Mike Mullings of Magnet Sports Bar and Lounge, Caple Spence, Alsion Roach of the Alsion Roach Group, Anthony Turner of IMAGES LLC, Garnett Headley, Lenworth Sharpe and Faney Bantin.

Coach Woolery pointed out that many of the team members have never travelled overseas before and this opportunity has turned out to be a huge motivation for the team as well as for other students at Petersfield High who would like to be a part of the team for next year.