With the Corporate and Western Region athletes already securing their place in the Digicel Grand Prix Athletics Championship finals, it is now time for the Central region to stake their claim. Scheduled to take place at on February 24 and 25 at the Kirkvine Sports Club, the Central Championships will see schools from the parishes of St. Catherine, Clarendon and Manchester compete in several track and field events. Among them are the seven Digicel Grand Prix events. While athletes from Central Jamaica already hold high positions in the Digicel Grand Prix. This week's renewal of Central Championships should strengthen that pre-eminence, especially on the girls' side. One Grand Prix event that could catch the eye is the girls' 200m, with class 1 as the crown jewel. That race could put the last two Girls Championships class 2 winners - Saqukine Cameron of Edwin Allen and Nataliah Whyte of St. Jago - against each other. Cameron leads the region in the under 19 400m with a run of 53.63 seconds while Whyte, the Youth Olympic 200m Champion doesn't yet have a Grand Prix qualifier in any event.
However, they could meet in a big 4x400 relay confrontation. Vere leads the rankings at 3 minutes 44.90 seconds. However, Edwin Allen and St Jago both have similar times from meets earlier this season.
Central Champs might see a return to form for Rochelle Frazier of Edwin Allen. Dominant last year, she will go in search of a Grand Prix qualifying throw in the discus. Her training partner Paula Ann Gayle leads the rankings with a mark of 45.45 metres, a distance Frazier has bettered many times.
On the girl’s side, Edwin Allen, Holmwood, St Jago, Hydel and Vere all have strong performers. Among the boys, St Jago's Martin Manley, Nathan Allen and Raheem Chambers could be the ones to watch.
Manley, the Youth Olympic Champion over 400 metres, and Allen, the Boys Championships runner-up last year to Javon Francis, probably won't meet. It's more likely that they will head their separate ways, with Manley running the 200 and Allen the 400, or vice versa.
Chambers broke Yohan Blake's Boys Champs class 2 100m record last year but hasn't competed in a 100m since the start of this year. Allen is the fastest Central athlete in the under 19 100m so far at 10.60 seconds. Chambers ran 10.28 last year.
Keen fans will be hoping for an appearance in the class 1 800m by talented Ryan Butler of Holmwood. He has been less than 100% this season and may have his hands full with Manchester's Daniel Wint, the Central region Grand Prix leader at 1 minute 55.28 seconds.
The girls' class 1 under 19 800m could be just as good. Vere's Sasha-Gaye Whyte heads the current standings with a time of 2.13.74. However, she may need to go faster to hold off Lisa Buchanan of Holmwood. Buchanan is a former winner of the 800m at Girls Championships.
The big performer in the field is Demar Gayle of Edwin Allen. Explosive in the shot put, he could gain a place in the under 19 Grand Prix finals with a big throw in the class 1 discus.
Excited about the final qualifiers for the Grand Prix, Digicel’s Kamal Powell said, “The Central Champs will give some schools another chance at securing a spot in the Grand Prix finals so this meet will definitely have spectators on the edge of their seats. With that said we are happy with the Grand Prix so far as it has not only helped to elevate the level of competition but it has also given the patrons a memorable track season.”