No Penn Relays participation for Vincentian athletes this year

James Cordice (R), coordinator and pioneer of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Penn Relays initiative, with Master of Ceremonies Vincentian Judge Emille Cox, at a reception, in late April 2019, for Vincentian and Belizean athletes, at the Calabash Restaurant and Lounge on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia.
Photo by Nelson A. King

Stating that the risk of cross-contamination far outweighs the benefits attained from the meet, the Philadelphia-based pioneer and coordinator of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ participation in the prestigious Penn Relays Carnival at the University of Pennsylvania says that, amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Vincentian athletes will not compete in next month’s Penn Relays.

James Cordice – who is president and founder of the organization group, Technical, Educational, Athletic, Mentoring (TEAM) SVG International Support, Inc. – told Caribbean Life over the weekend that, after consultation with the Ministry of Education in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which was ultimately advised by the Ministry Health, he “concluded that the Penn Relays’ participation of the schools from SVG (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) in 2020 will not take place.”

Cordice noted that, to date, the University of Pennsylvania has not cancelled the 126th running of the Penn Relays at the Franklin Field Stadium in Philadelphia, but added: “As most of my colleagues agree, it’s a good idea to err on the side of caution.”

“2020 Penn Relays would have seen and felt TSSS (Thomas Saunders Secondary School) exemplary participation for 10 consecutive years and the SVG Boys Grammar school for the 4th year,” he said. “But there will be next year.

“There would be some lost opportunities for exiting students, but I definitely prefer to lose those opportunities than to risk losing one person, especially a child,” he added.

Cordice said that, over the past nine years, since athletes from St. Vincent and the Grenadines began competing in the Penn Relays, “over 200 student athletes and their handlers would have tasted the hospitality of being taken care of and supported by Vincentians and other Caribbean persons while on the quest of using sports as an academic vehicle.

“We were able to obtain multiple scholarship to colleges, universities and high schools here in the USA and in other countries,” he said. “Some of our students have graduated, and some continue to study and compete in other institutions.

“Although there are conversations referencing the age group that is more susceptible to the wrath of the coronavirus, we still need to be extremely conscious of the fall-off effect, where the virus can be transported by healthy persons, then aggressively attacks more vulnerable persons,” he added.

Cordice’s announcement came on the heels of Friday’s decision by the Queens-based Team Jamaica Bickle (TJB) to cancel its participation in next month’s Penn Relays.

TJB – which provides meals and other accommodations to Jamaican and Caribbean athletes competing in the games, usually held over three days, including the last weekend in April – said it based its decision after Jamaican authorities announced that local athletes will not participate this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cordice used the opportunity to thank “all the wings that hold this program (SVG participation in the Penn Relays) in a high place,” identifying among others, the Philadelphia-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organization of Pennsylvania (SVGOP); the Brooklyn-based Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO); the Brooklyn-based DeShong sisters; the Brooklyn-based Club St. Vincent; TJB; the coaches, principals and faculty of TSSS and the SVG Boys Grammar School; and the Ministry of Sports in SVG.

“TEAM SVG International Support, Inc. continues its mentorship and hospital program, where we assist high school and college students, especially students who are studying abroad,” Cordice said. “Please continue to support our sporting goods drive. We aim to saturate the Inter-Secondary School Sports (in SVG) with proper running gears, especially shoes. Please ask us how you can assist.”

Cordice said one of his group’s upcoming projects is to place a minimum of one defibrillator in each of the 27 high schools in SVG.

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