Sat | Sep 19, 2020

‘We showed that it can be done’ - James proud of Velocity Fest success in midst of COVID-19 pandemic

Published:Wednesday | September 9, 2020 | 12:08 AMDaniel Wheeler/Staff Reporter
Stephenie-Ann McPherson  competes in the women’s 400m at the Velocity Fest track meet, held at the National Stadium on Saturday, August 8.
Stephenie-Ann McPherson competes in the women’s 400m at the Velocity Fest track meet, held at the National Stadium on Saturday, August 8.
An official sprays the starting blocks at the Velocity Fest track meet, held at the National Stadium on Saturday, August 8.
An official sprays the starting blocks at the Velocity Fest track meet, held at the National Stadium on Saturday, August 8.
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The onset of the coronavirus outbreak in Jamaica in March brought a halt to the domestic track and field season with little indication, at that point, of when or if there would be any events for the rest of 2020.

Two months after approval was given for the restart of events in July and the subsequent staging of the Velocity Fest meets in August, MVP Track Club President Bruce James says that he is pleased that the meets were able to be executed safely.

Athletics’ initial restart of meets began with events at Ashenheim Stadium on the grounds of Jamaica College, but the Velocity Fest series put on by MVP were the first held in the National Stadium since the pandemic.

James said that the execution of the event proved that it was possible to stage meets in a safe and secure manner amid the current health crisis.

“It demonstrated that Jamaican officials can come together and put together exactly what is required for us to have a world-class quality event without breaching COVID-19 protocols,” James told The Gleaner.

CLOCKING FAST TIMES

Among the standouts of the series were the performances of four-time 100m world champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and double Olympic sprint champion Elaine Thompson-Herah, who ran the fastest 100m times in the world this year clocking 10.87 and 10.88 seconds, respectively.

“Because of Velocity Fest, they have been able to show the world that they are the fastest women in the world for 2020,” James added.

Although he closed the season for his club after the first Velocity Fest, held in early August, Sprintec head coach and G.C. Foster College principal Maurice Wilson was pleased that his charges were able to have personal success in their performances.

“I personally believe that we achieved our objectives because we had a lot of athletes running their season bests. We had a lot of athletes running their personal best. Some of the athletes improved on their world rankings, and I think it was a win-win,” Wilson said.

While professional track athletes were able to have some semblance of a season, the cancellation of this year’s ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships ended the junior track campaign for the year.

James said while the Velocity Fest meets and Champs are two different formats, some of the safety measures from the former could be used for next year’s scheduled staging of the high-school championships.

“These meets were focused on less than 100 athletes at a time in a very narrow window with specific events. Champs has thousands of athletes over multiple days in a championship format. So, it’s two different structures,” James said. “I do believe there are some things that could be incorporated in Champs.”

daniel.wheeler@gleanerjm.com