For the past seven years, athletes from St. Vincent and the Grenadines have been undertaking the annual trek to Philadelphia to compete in the largest and oldest high school track and field event in the world at the Franklin Field Stadium at the University of Pennsylvania.
“This year promises another gigantic level of exposure for the entire country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” said James Cordice, the pioneering coordinator of the Vincentian contingents at the Carnival, in a Caribbean Life interview.
Like last year, when St. Vincent and the Grenadines featured two high schools for the very first time — in previous years only one school competed — the Thomas Saunders Secondary School (TSSS) and the St. Vincent Grammar School (SVGS) will participate in the 124th running of the meet.
The TSSS — the first Vincentian high school to be featured in the events, which run from Thursday, April 26 to Saturday, April 28 — will feature boys’ and girls’ teams in the 4×100 and 4x400m.
TSSS girls’ team will compete on April 26, and the boys’ team on April 27 and April 28.
SVGS — an all-boys school, the nation’s oldest high school — will field a team in the 4x100m on April 27 and April 28.
“I am proud and pleased to report that this program of only eight years has already produced a number of aspiring athletes now attending and completing in USA institutions, including Olympian Brandon Valentine-Parris, now at St Augustine University in North Carolina,” Cordice said.
Valentine-Parris was among the first batch of TSSS athletes to compete in the games.
Cordice said both high schools will arrive in Philadelphia in late April “and will be hosted by the synergetic love and kindness of hundreds of Vincentians and other nationals in the USA and Canada.”
Several Vincentians will travel from major United States cities, including New York, to render boisterous support to the athletes.
As they have done in previous years, nationals will join the Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A. Inc. (COSAGO), the umbrella Vincentian group in the United States, on a bus trip on the last day of the carnival to support the athletes.
On April 7, Club St. Vincent, one of the older Vincentian cultural and educational groups in Brooklyn, will organize a walk-a-thon to support the Vincentian athletes at the Penn Relays. The event takes place at Marine Park in Brooklyn, starting at 9 am.
“Let us say a special prayer for the safety, guidance and protection of our athletes and support staff, as they continue to make our nation more proud and visible by using sports as an academic vehicle, which is my vision and intention for this program,” Cordice said.
At the Relays Carnival, more than 15,000 athletes from high schools, colleges and track clubs throughout North America and abroad, primarily Jamaica, compete in more than 300 events.
Last year, Penn Relays organizers put the three-day total attendance at the meet at 108,912, with 22,894 fans on Thursday, 38,598 on Friday, and 47,420 on the climaxing Saturday.
“More athletes have run at the Penn Relays than at any single meet in the world,” said Penn Relays organizers, adding that “more spectators have watched the meet than any in the world, except the Olympics and World Championships.”