Vincy Penn Relays pioneer praised for initiative

James Cordice (R) with Kenrick Mitchell, founder of SVGOP, at Saturday night’s reception.
Photo by Nelson A. King

Patrons and supporters continue to shower praise on the man, who, over the past eight years, has been instrumental in ensuring that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is represented at the annual Penn Relays Carnival in Philadelphia.

As an executive member of Team Jamaica Bickle, the Queens-based organization that provides meals and other support to Caribbean teams competing in the Penn Relays, James Cordice had yearned for a Vincentian team to participate in the popular Relays Carnival.

In 2010, he was successful in getting the first Vincentian school, the Thomas Saunders Secondary School (TSSS), to compete in the games.

To date, TSSS has been competing in the championship. Last and this year, the St. Vincent Grammar School joined TSSS at the games.

At a gala reception for the Vincentian and Belizean athletes Saturday night and over brunch the next day — both at the Vincentian-owned Calabash Restaurant and Lounge on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia — patrons, fans and supporters heaped praise on Cordice, among others, for his pioneering, indefatigable efforts.

“We’re extremely grateful for those who came out to support — whether monetarily or otherwise,” said Rawlson Morgan, the Grammar School Head Coach Saturday night. “We really want to come back next year.

“Specifically, we want to thank Mr. Cordice, and we want to thank the drivers [including Cordice] for getting us around,” he added.

Curtis King, the Head Master of the St. Vincent Grammar School, also lauded Cordice in his remarks.

“I want to thank Mr. Cordice for ensuring that we’re here,” he said.

While thanking the Vincentian athletes, the Brooklyn-based umbrella Vincentian group, Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO) and Club St. Vincent, Inc., among others, New York Consul General Howie Prince described Cordice as “the chief cook and bottle washer” for the initiative.

“It’s a sound commendation for Mr. Cordice to pull this together,” Prince said. “So, let’s hear it for Brother Cordice.”

Dr. Jeremy Cayetano, principal of Stan Creek High School in Belize, was also effusive in her praise for Cordice, who had travelled to Belize in getting the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)-member country to compete in the Penn Relays for the very first time.

“Extreme thanks to Mr. Cordice,” she said. “You are part of our family.”

COSAGO president Laverne McDowald-Thompson, Club St. Vincent, Inc. vice president Ancilla Friday and Yvonne O’Garro, president of the Philadelphia-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organization of Pennsylvania [SVGOP] were among others lauding Cordice Saturday night.

“Penn Relays is very special to us,” O’Garro said. “We will not be here without Mr. Cordice and Mr. [Kenrick] Mitchell [founder of SVGOP].”

For his part, Cordice, who chaired the night’s proceedings, said it was “all in a day’s work.”

“We welcome our athletes for the wonderful job they’ve done,” he told patrons. “I want to remind our athletes that, as long as they do their best, we’re satisfied.”

He later told Caribbean Life that, despite financial constraints and “all of the obstacles that were in the way of the athletes making the best possible impression, they still did.”

“I am absolutely on track with the continuation of this program,” he added, expressing special praise for the St. Vincent Grammar School and the TSSS girls in the 4x400m.

“The time of 3.22 minutes from the Grammar school in the 4×400 moved me,” Cordice revealed. “The TSSS girls, well, you had to be there. Winning that 4x400m heat was an example of the possibilities that is here for SVG [St. Vincent and the Grenadines].

“Back in 2010 Coach [Godfrey] Harry [of the TSSS] accepted the challenge of coming to the Penn Relays; and, in the past eight years, they [the school] medaled about five times,” Cordice pointed out.

“And, it’s so interesting to see that, last year, Coach Gary Francisco took the same challenge, and Belize was at the Penn Relays for the very first time,” he continued. “Thank you to all for your tremendous support. That’s what’s keeping this program alive.”

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Consul General to New York Howie Prince addresses Saturday night’s reception.
Photo by Nelson A. King

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