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By Robert Taylor, Special to TrackAlerts.com
With Jamaica high school athletes dominating CARIFTA Games and leaving with three days break and four days for males, I wonder how tired these kids are. Some will be turning up with minor injuries but this will not stop them from performing.
It seems as if Penn Relays carry more importance than CARIFTA Games to some of the Jamaican high school coaches. I guess because it is a regional game while Penn Relays have a more international flavour. The fifty years participation of Jamaica high schools compare to the 42 years for CARIFTA might play a role too. I have seen high school coaches have their athletes forgo CARIFTA because the trials was too close to the Jamaica high school championship, yet allow athlete with slight injury to run at Penn Relays. Such is the power of Jamaica high school championship and Penn Relays relative to the CARIFTA Games.
I would be remiss if I did not give a special mention to Kingston College for being the pioneer high school of Jamaica. They not only were the first but they also won the Championship of America high school boys 4×110 yards in their first year. That winning team was made up of Kenneth “Tony” Keyes, James “Jimmy” Grant, Rupert Hoilette and Lennox “Billy” Miller. Working with the Kingston College organizing committee to make it possible were Olympic great Herb McKenely, the then Government supervisor of athletics and Kenneth Doherthy , Director of Penn Relays. Without all concern, Jamaica participation might have been delayed for a later year.
The introduction of Jamaican high schools to the Penn Relays has turned out to be a major success. As the years go by, the Penn Relays has developed into the number one track and field event in the United States. No other track and field event have the crowd size, fan support and cheering as that of Penn Relays. Now Jamaican support is a staple. Each year “USA”, “Jamaica” chants is a constant. The energy of the crowd creates the atmosphere for the athletes to perform at their best. Many transplanted Jamaicans see Penn Relays as the place to relive their childhood fun of the Jamaica high school championship and the Jamaica Gibson Relays. One could easily find Jamaican cuisine to buy during the event. The colours of Jamaica and the various high schools is everywhere, it is a carnival like atmosphere.
Though many if not all of those who work tirelessly to make the first Jamaican high school participation a reality have died, we should all give them a round of applause for the success their vision has brought. Who think a 1964 introduction of a high school team from Jamaica could have such far-reaching effect on the growth and profitability of the Penn Relays?
This year I am hoping the weather conforms and allow the athletes to perform at their best. The great thing about the original team of 1964, they all at the very least acquired a bachelor degree. Some become doctors, one become a college coach, while others are living productive lives and contributing to development of young people. I am hoping many of these young athletes cease opportunities afforded to them and become productive adults so that the young that follows see them as great role models upon which they can pattern their lives.