Key changes for JTA/Sagicor National Champs
Chairman of the national sports committee for the Jamaica Teacher's Association (JTA)/Sagicor National Athletic Championships, Keith Wellington, says the phasing out of All-Age and Junior High schools, will have a significant impact on the 35th staging of the annual parish primary schools event, schedule for May 25th and 26th at the National Stadium.
Wellington noted that only two parishes still have all-age schools in existence, as a result, the championship has eliminated the Under-17 and Under-15 categories, and for the first time this year, it will be contested as a strictly primary school meet. However, a few events have been adjusted to accommodate the changes to the all-age school system.
The high jump and long jump will be changed from an open event to a class event for under-13 and under-15, while the same will happen for the 1500 metres, which will be reduced to a 1,200 metres race.
"The rationale behind this is we have less students over 12-13 participating, and we want to ensure that students feel encouraged to participate. Also, these were open events and younger students had to be competing with older ones, so we have decided to reduce the 1,500 metres because we have fewer Under-15s participating because the education system is parting ways with the all-ages," Wellington told The Gleaner.
The St Elizabeth TechnicalHigh School (STETHS) principal said in the past, the meet played a crucial role in the development of the nation's athletes and that will continue to use it as a means of introducing young athletes to expected world standards, thus one of their reason for turning the high and long jump to a class event.
"It (JTA/Sagicor meet) contributes immensely to the development of sports. When we started we didn't have younger age groups, but now we have included kids as young as six, which means they get the opportunity to start in track and field competitively from Grade One right through," Wellington commented.
"They will come to high schools with the basic knowledge of track and field. They will be exposed to all the IAAF rules. For example this year the IAAF brought in the video review referee and we are including it in the JTA meet. So we try and ensure that whatever is expected at the international level, these kids are exposed to it as soon as they start participating competitively," he said.
Calabar's Tyreke Wilson and Wolmer's' Aiko Jones will be meet ambassadors for the championship, which will be sponsored this year to a tune of $6 million by Sagicor.
Jones was especially pleased to know that even though she did not attend primary school, she could be an inspiration to those that do.
"It's an honour (to be meet ambassador). I honestly was surprised because I didn't attend primary school, but it felt good they still believe I could influence primary school athletes and young athletes in general and I am very grateful for the opportunity.
I just hope these athletes can see something in me or Tyreke that can motivate them into high school and to do their best," Jones said.
St Catherine are the defending champions.