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Gibson McCook Relays returns with changed format

Published:Wednesday | January 26, 2022 | 12:06 AMRaymond Graham/Gleaner Writer
Men’s 4x100m relay for clubs  at the Gibson McCook Relays held at the National Stadium on Saturday, February 23, 2019.
Men’s 4x100m relay for clubs at the Gibson McCook Relays held at the National Stadium on Saturday, February 23, 2019.
Michael Clarke
Michael Clarke
Keilando Goburn
Keilando Goburn
Dave Anderson
Dave Anderson
Michael Dyke
Michael Dyke
Coach Marlon James
Coach Marlon James
Maurice Wilson
Maurice Wilson
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AFTER A year's absence due to the COVID pandemic, the most popular and longest-running relay carnival in the country will be back with a new format.

The 45th renewal of the Gibson McCook Relays is set to take place on February 26, the final Saturday of the month as per usual.

Unlike previous years, many of the teams that normally perform at this popular event will be missing as the organisers have made drastic changes to facilitate protocols on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The invitational event will be void of preliminary-round action, the organisers opting for a straight final situation. Which teams are invited depends completely on performances from the last staging of the event in 2020 in combination with last year’s ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Championships.

The relays are expected to last three and a half hours, starting at 1 p.m. with the High School Girls’ Class I 4x100 metres relay. The final event of the meet at 4:30 p.m. will be the High School Boys’ 4x400m relays.

The organisers have laid out strict guidelines, which include mandatory vaccination for athletes, coaches and team officials. The invited teams will have to send proof of their vaccination status for their members by February 11.

Once again, there will be commemorative Gibson McCook watches for those involved in each event, as well as medals for the top three teams. In addition, the Neville McCook Trophy will be given to the top Boys’ and Girls’ teams with cash incentives for each championship record broken.

At the last staging in 2020 it was Edwin Allen High and Kingston College that stole the show among high school teams, with Sprintec doing so among clubs and institutions. Edwin Allen won four out of eight relays while Kingston College won five out of 11. Sprintec won two relays in record-breaking fashion. The female team now owns the 4x100 record, clocking 43.42 seconds and did the same in the 4x400m, stopping the clock in 3:35.16 seconds.

The most outstanding performance of the meet saw the Class II quartet of Serena Cole, Brandy Hall, and Tia and Tina Clayton of Edwin Allen producing a brilliant run of 43.73 seconds to win the 4x100m event. With that time, the quartet became the fastest female high school team in Jamaica’s history. With three of those members, in the Clayton Twins and Cole, coming off their World Under-20 world record run of 42.94 seconds in Nairobi last summer and the trio set to join up once again with second year Class I athlete Hall, the high school record is definitely in danger here.

Here’s what the coaches have to say

Michael Clarke – Head coach of Calabar High School

I like the new format where there will be straight finals but I disagree with the exclusion of Class IV Boys and Girls as these athletes need the early exposure on the big stage in preparation for two years’ time.

Michael Dyke – Head coach – Edwin Allen High School (girls)

Having straight finals is a good idea as this will not cause overwork of the athletes in a one-day meet. When I saw the draft I thought it was an error with the organisers left out Class IV Girls. This is a bad move and I hope the organisers reconsider and add them to the meet.

Keilando Goburn – Head coach – St Jago High School (girls)

I love the new format where it will be finals only as it is like a Diamond League with a good afternoon session, which the crowd will enjoy as this is the time when spectators come to the meet.

On the flip side, however, not inviting Class IV Boys and Girls is not a good move as these athletes are the most vulnerable as they have been out of competition for the past two years. I am hoping good sense will prevail and the organisers will have a change of heart and invite them to the meet.

Dave Anderson – Head coach of Holmwood Technical

I think having straight finals only is good. It will ensure that athletes are not overworked, as this is the only meet where two rounds of relay is contested in one day, which most times result in injury to athletes of teams, especially those with small squads like us.

Not inviting Class IV is a bad move and I am hoping that the organisers revisit this one, as these young athletes need the exposure on this grand stage.

Marlon James – Head coach of St Catherine High School (girls)

I am really grateful that the Gibson McCook Relays is back but I am disappointed with the new format. Not inviting Class IV Boys and Girls is a backward step and this will negatively affect the psyche of these young athletes who have been starved of competition for the past two years.

Also, I am disappointed in them only having straight finals as Gibson Relays is the only event with heats and finals in a competitive adrenalin-driven environment.

Maurice Wilson – Head coach of Sprintec and national senior team technical director

I am elated that the decision has been taken by the committee to run finals only. Since the pandemic, the format of meets has changed and it is gratifying to see this change. Professional and other athletes do not want to spend the entire day at a meet, plus the attraction of spectators will be greater.