André Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter
As economic conditions worsen, rural schools competing at the Inter Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA)/ GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships, being staged at the National Stadium, are forking out in excess of $500,000 on rising accommodation costs.
According to officials from several rural-area schools, currently based in Kingston for the five-day championships that run through to Saturday, accommodation expenses account for a large chunk of their overall budget.
Head coach of the St Elizabeth-based BB Coke High School, Collin White, who is in Kingston with 14 athletes, explained that his school went to great lengths to ensure that the students were comfortably accommodated.
"Over the years, we have been having great difficulties in accommodation. This year is one of the years that we had to search to find the money and the most accommodating place," said White. "We have the budget that we were working on and because we are, as they say, a non-traditional school coming into Champs, we try to have fundraisers … to offset all these costs."
Making athletes comfortable
He added: "We were looking at a budget close to around half a million (dollars) but we took it upon ourselves to make sure the athletes are comfortable."
He said: "But I think it is really important, because to travel from St Elizabeth would be very hectic, so staying closer to the venue is important to get the athletes comfortable and relaxed."
Schools like St Jago High benefit from a solid past student network, but as assistant coach DeWayne Dawkins explained, it's an area that the team's leadership is extremely keen on.
"Everything is increasing, of course the US dollar is going up and everything, but at St Jago, our past students play their part in everything we do there and they play a very big role where athletics is concerned," Dawkins said.
"It costs over half a million, I believe, but having a base close to the competition site is very important," Dawkins added. "Travelling from Spanish Town to the National Stadium over the five days would be stressful for the athletes and they need to stay somewhere closer so that they can come here easily and early enough. So staying closer plays a very important role to the athletes, coaches and management staff."
Holmwood's Dave Anderson echoed these sentiments.
"It would be impossible to travel to Kingston over the five or six days, so this is a key element in our preparation and participation at Champs," said Anderson. "We know things are bad financially, but we have been able to find it to keep us there."
See more Champs coverage in Sports Section.