NACAC Champs for Jamaica
Jamaica is known as the sprint capital of the world.
However, focus this weekend will turn to distance running, as the country will for the first time host the North America, Central America and Caribbean (NACAC) Cross Country Championships in Mandeville this Saturday.
The championships will include four events: the 4K junior women, which will run off at 2:15 p.m., the 6K junior men at 3 p.m., the 6K women at 3:45 p.m., and the 8K men at 4:30 p.m.
In excess of 150 athletes representing eight different countries are expected to converge on the Manchester Golf Club for the battle of endurance.
NACAC general secretary, George Peryer, explained why the championship - which originated in the United States in 2005 where it was held annually until 2009 when it was moved to Trinidad and Tobago - has now made its way to Jamaica for its ninth staging.
"I went to Trinidad the last time they had it (championship) and they had had it for more than once, so they said we had to find somewhere else to have it now," Peryer said, following yesterday's media launch at the Altamont Court hotel. "So I suggested it to Mr Teddy McCook (NACAC president) and he agreed, and I went to the JAAA's and got their agreement to do it, and they gave us Mr (Alfred) Francis and we formed an LOC (local organising committee)."
Minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Sports, Natalie Neita-Headley, said, "A meet like this one is going to promote and bring some of the glamour of track and field to not just sprinting, but to middle-distance and long-distance running."
"It is something that we (the government) endorse, and as a government we are certainly looking forward to ensuring that 2016 (next Olympics) will see quite a number of our athletes being involved in the middle- and long-distance running and more field events."
President of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), Dr Warren Blake, also expressed great pleasure at the fact that the championship will grace our shores.
"Part of the thrust of the new JAAA administration is to enhance distance running in Jamaica, so this really fits in with our philosophy of going forward," Blake shared.
Alfred 'Frano' Francis, chairman of the local organising committee, has given assurance that everything will be in place to ensure a top-quality meet.
"This is the highest standard cross country championships to be staged in Jamaica," Francis highlighted. "We are working very hard and our national trials provided a good experience going into this event, and I think we did well at our trials.
"Our athletes are preparing and they have been to the venue on several occasions and ran on it, so they have home advantage and I know they want to do well."
Jamaica's team will include the likes of Tanice Barnett, Stephanie Barrett, Rushae Burrell, Danielle James, Damion Bent, Ainsworth Daley, Romar Mundle and Wayne Beckford.