More than 20 rural high schools from Eastern Jamaica are set to renew their rivalry at the 2012 Eastern Secondary Schools' Sports Association (ESSSA)/JNBS Track and Field Championships on February 20 and 21.
The highly anticipated annual event has returned to the National Stadium after the refurbishment exercise to improve the Stadium track led to the staging of the meet at the Mona Bowl, at the University of the West Indies, last year.
The two-day meet, being sponsored by the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) for the 26th consecutive year, will showcase the talent of several rising track and field stars from schools in the parishes of St Thomas, Portland, St Mary, rural St Andrew and St Catherine.
Lt Col Errol Johnson, president of ESSSA, says sports fans should expect keener rivalries this year from stronger teams whose members are bent on capturing the 2012 trophy.
"The teams from Titchfield and Buff Bay high schools in Portland; St Mary High and the defending champions Oberlin in rural St Andrew have certainly strengthened; and, therefore, we are expecting lots of excitement and rigorous competition," Johnson said, emphasising that the event maintains a stellar position as one of the major events on the high school track and field calendar.
ESSSA pleased with sponsorship
He said ESSSA was pleased with the renewed Jamaica National sponsorship which demonstrates the society's high level of commitment to investing in track and field, and sports in general.
"Jamaica National's 26 years of unwavering dedication has resulted in the consistent growth of Eastern Champs, and the emergence of some of our finest athletes, who go on to represent Jamaica at several levels in track and field and in other spheres of life," Johnson acknowledged.
Leon Mitchell, assistant general manager, JN group marketing, sales & promotion, pointed out that Olympians such as Juliet Cuthbert participated in Eastern Champs. Cuthbert, who attended Morant Bay High School, won silver, gold and bronze medals at the Olympic and World Championships during the early to mid-1990s, and also received many other national, regional and international accolades during her track and field career.
"And, we continue to produce promising talent such as Seaforth High's Javere Bell and Morant Bay's Romar Foster, who emerged the top athletes at last year's meet," Mitchell said.
Bell, who is now training with the Glen Mills-led Racers Track Club at the University of the West Indies, Mona, represented Jamaica at the 2009 IAAF World Youth Championships and the 2010 World Junior Championships.
"Eastern Champs is indeed a credible event, which continues to play an invaluable role in the expansion of the country's athletic programmes. We at Jamaica National are, therefore, pleased to continue our association with ESSSA; and to provide the investment in a sector which strengthens 'Brand Jamaica', and give young Jamaicans the opportunity to excel in sports," Mitchell added.