All is set for Saturday’s official start of the highly anticipated 2017 Digicel Grand Prix Athletics Championship, which gets out of the blocks with the Western Championship at Montego Bay Sports Complex.
The five-meet Digicel series has a prize package totaling $15 million in scholarships and prizes for top athletes and their schools. Stephen Smith, Head of the County of Cornwall Athletics Association (COCAA) which is hosting the track and field event, says they are ready.
“We’re actually 95 percent finished. We’re on the ball for the start of the series. We’re only watching the rain at the eliminations. It’s been raining for the past two days, so the only concerns we have is with the weather. It’s just to get the eliminations off,” said Smith.
Qualifiers for the first meet in the 2017 Digicel Grand Prix begin today with boys’ eliminations at St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS). Then Thursday, also at STETHS, it will be the girls turn to chase a place in the much-sought-after finals, to be held in Montego Bay.
“We in the western region welcome the Digicel Grand Prix in that it brings a lot of financial support to the schools,” noted Smith.
Four other meets will follow; the Eastern Championships on February 28, the Anthrick Corporate Area Championships on March 2, Central Championships on March 8, and then the finals, the G.C. Foster Classic, on March 11.
Digicel will provide the winning boys’ and girls’ schools with a top prize of $1 million, with $500,000 going to each runner-up and $200,000 a piece for the third-placed schools. Coaches of the winning schools will each get $50,000, while record-breakers will earn$25,000-$50,000 in scholarships.
“This is the type of investment that can lead to academic and athletic greatness, which is the balance that these young talents needs,” said Kamal Powell, Senior Sponsorship and Development Manager at Digicel.
This is the third staging, following the initial run in 2015 and last year when Edwin Allen’s girls and St Jago’s boys ran away with the top prize.
“We look forward to further contributing to the development of athletics right across Jamaica. Our mission is to support young athletes to make them grow from ‘grassroots to greatness’,” added Powell, making reference to this year’s theme.
Smith says the region’s institutions are grateful for Digicel’s contribution through the 2017 Digicel Grand Prix Western Championships.
“COCAA is an association that is geared towards development and since Digicel has come along with the Grand Prix the support has gotten stronger,” he informed.
“We love this type of grassroots support, it caters well to the athletes coming up from the Primary and prep schools and those in high school looking to make it to the next level. We feel good to know that Digicel is helping our development.”
Championship events are the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, discus, long jump and high jump for classes one and two boys and girls, plus the 4x400m open relay.