Raymond Graham, Gleaner Writer
TRACK and field fans in central Jamaica are expected to turn out in large numbers today as the third staging of the Ben Francis Invitational Track and Field meet will be held on the grounds of Vere Technical High School in Clarendon, starting at 8:30 a.m.
Former Vere Technical sprinter, the outstanding Olympian Merlene Ottey, will be the patron of today's meet. Ottey who now resides in Slovenia, arrived in the country earlier this week for the meet.
In a special ceremony today at 1 p.m., the University of Technology (UTech) will confer the honorary Doctor of Technology (Hon DTech) on Ottey.
Over her long and distinguished career, Ottey has represented Jamaica in six Olympic Games and has won more Olympic medals in track and field history than any other female athlete.
With the Gibson Relays just a week away and the GraceKennedy/ISSA Boys and Girls' Championships three weeks away, many of the island's top high-school athletes will be using the opportunity for a last-ditch effort to qualify for that championships, as this will be one of the final meets to do so.
Leading high-school athletes will by vying for cash prizes in six championship events, with the winners of each getting $40,000. These events are the 2000 metres boys' steeplechase, 200m girls' Class One, 400m boys' Class One, high jump Class One girls, along with 4x100m Class One and 4x400 metres open for girls.
With their very strong Class One girls' team, home team Vere Technical are expected to walk away with most of these incentives as their team includes the likes of Olivia James and Shericka Jackson, who have both of represented the country on numerous occasions at the highest level for junior athletes.
Overall, there will be some nine events on the track today - 200m, 400m, 400m hurdles open, 2000 metres steeplechase, 5000m open for boys, along with the 4x100m and 4x400m open. In the field the events are long jump, high jump, shot put and discus.
CAPTION: Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (right) greeting Olympian Merlene Ottey at Vale Royal on Thursday. Ottey arrived in the island on Monday, February 11 to be a special guest and honouree at the third edition of today's Ben Francis Invitational meet. In addressing a luncheon in honour of Ottey at Vale Royal, the prime minister said Jamaicans will always appreciate the foundation that the Jamaican 'Sprint Queen' has built, and that the 52-year-old sprinter epitomises the importance of determination, perseverance and hard work. -Contributed