Raymond Graham, Gleaner Writer
AFTER its historic staging last year, Saturday's second staging of the Digicel 5K night run/walk in downtown Kingston saw a record 7,200 participants taking part; an improvement on the 5,400 that entered a year ago.
New champions were crowned in the 5K run as Damion Bent and Danielle James were the top male and female finishers.
IAAF World Championships 100m and 200m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce was on starter duty as Bent, who was third last year, took control from early on to sprint away to an easy win in 15 minutes 11 seconds, relegating last year's winner, Kirk Brown, to second in 15:25. Last year's runner-up, Shawn Pitter, was third in 15:53.
The vastly improved James, out of Mavis Bank Track Club, went one place better by being the first female to finish in 19:52. Areitha Martin took second in 20:25, as 15 years-old, Latrice McGhan, also out of Mavis Bank High, was third.
The event, which was held to help raise funds for individuals with special needs, saw some 11 organisations benefiting.
Meet director, Alfred 'Franno' Francis was excited with the overall running of the event.
"This is a significant achievement, as it has been a big improvement from last year, and this is going to get even bigger as the turnout augers well for the future," said Francis. "I am also pleased with the entire atmosphere, as despite concerns leading into the event about the crime situation in downtown, there was not a single moment when this was evident, as everybody worked in unison and the entire atmosphere was fantastic," he said.
Digicel CEO Barry O Brien, who also participated in the walk, was indeed a happy man.
"The event was a great success, as getting 7,200 entries is monumental, and I am pleased that we were able to achieve our objectives, as we care about the people with special needs, and I can't wait for next year, because our objective is to see at least 20,000 participants," he said.
Also sharing in the moment was Samantha Chantrelle, executive director of the Digicel Foundation.
"The support was fantastic, as Jamaicans from all over came out in their large numbers to support a good cause, and this augurs well for the future,"Chantrelle said.