Paul Clarke, Gleaner Writer
Western Bureau:All is set for the 35th staging of the Milo Western Relays, drawing together top track athletes from various high schools to the more established stars in local club athletics, few more successful than the powerful MVP Track Club led by a number of Olympians.
The spectacle, which will begin at noon, is expected to pull out a massive crowd at the Montego Bay Stadium, located in Catherine Hall, St James, the unequivocal home of the Milo Western Relays.
While much interest will be on the performances from high school athletes because of preparations for the ISSA Boys and Girls' Championships, most focus will no doubt be on the big-name stars such as double Olympic 100m gold medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Asafa Powell, Nesta Carter, Melaine Walker and Sherone Simpson. Powell, Walker and Simpson will be out on the track for the first time this season.
This year, sponsors Nestlé, producers of Milo, will spend some $4.5 million on the event that will cater to three categories - prep/primary, high school and clubs/institution. But key to this year's staging is the inclusion of the 100m Open and sprint hurdles races which, according to meet director Ray Harvey, will be keenly contested.
"We have not had these in a while. We are excited about these new events to provide additional races on the Mondo track for our athletes. We see it as contributing to their development," said Harvey.
The sprint hurdles for boys will be run in Class One, Two and Three, while the girls will participate in two of the three classes.
"I am really hoping that we get the kind of turnout that this meet deserves, because how often will people in Montego Bay and surrounding communities will get an opportunity to see so many of our stars perform here," said Harvey.
Athletes will participate in 49 events, including stellar races such as the men's 4x100m that could feature Powell and Carter, and the women's 4x100m that could see a possible line-up that includes Fraser-Pryce and Simpson.
Exciting women's 4x400m
Another big-ticket race will be the women's 4x400m that could see three-time Diamond League winner Kaliese Spencer spearheading a team to include 2008 Olympic 400m hurdles champion Melaine Walker and sprinter Sherone Simpson, who no doubt will be using the 400m for strength and conditioning.
Harvey believes this year's staging of the relays could be a remarkable experience for all.
"Last year, Powell and company were beaten by Swept Track Club in the sprint relay, and I am very certain redemption is on the cards for them, while action in the high school category will also be intensely interesting," reasoned Harvey.
As intense as the club rivalry could get, sparks are also set to fly at the high school level, as Green Island's 2011 World Youth 100m champion Odail Todd will battle rivals from Kingston College and Wolmer's Boys. Also set to field athletes are STETHS, Herbert Morrison Technical, Manning's, Vere Tech, Edwin Allen, Munro and Holmwood Technical, schools which are all gearing up for March 12-16 Boys and Girls' Championships.