By Barrington M. Salmon and Ann A. Walters
News Americas, PHILADELPHIA, PA, Fri. April 26, 2013: Jamaican track and field athletes continued to make the Penn Relays their own personal playground Thursday in a dominating display of prowess on the track and in the field.
Vere Tech took the mile relay, holding off rivals Edwin Allen High School and Holmwood Technical High School to snatch their 11th title in the mile relays at the Penn Relays. The quartet from the Hayes, Clarendon school clocked a time of 3:36.72 seconds, to post the fifth fastest time ever at the largest international meet of its kind in the world.
Vere’s headmistress Henritta Stewart beamed after the race, adding that she never had a doubt that the four women – Yanique McNeil, Andrenette Knight, Derri-Ann Hill and Olivia James – would cross the tape first.
“Oh, I’m absolutely proud of these girls,” she said with pride. “I know that the weather wasn’t good … they were complaining about the cold burning their throats. But once Yanique got the baton, I knew we’d win.”
“It means a lot to bring this trophy back to Jamaica,” she said. “It’s my second win. We won back in 2011. [In the last 100 meters], I felt the Edwin Allen girl on my shoulder … I faltered but my teammates put me in a good position.”
Stewart, principal since 2004, noted that Vere Tech has produced the highest number of Olympians and world-class athletes of any school in Jamaica, and she said she was looking forward to participating in a ceremony where Vere’s 2004 4x100m team of Simone Facey, Sharneter Stewart, Indira Spence and Maris Wisdom would be added to the Penn Relays Wall of Fame. Vere has the most victories in the 4x100m event in Penn Relays history with 15 victories.
Vere’s team captain Shericka Jackson appeared quietly pleased by her team’s performance. She said the 2013 Penn Relays was her sixth and last.
“It was very cold when I came the first time,” she recalled. “I ran the 400m, 200m and the 4x400m and I ran my worst times but it was a lot of fun. I’ve been helping the younger athletes. The season is basically over and I don’t want to leave Vere.”
Jackson, 18, credited teamwork for Vere’s win, before hugging each member of the winning team individually.
Edwin Allen placed second with a time of 3.37.55, steps ahead of Holmwood, who crossed the finish line with a time of 3.38.09. Two other Jamaican schools – St. Jago and St. Elizabeth Technical came in fifth and eighth in the event.
Holmwood Technical’s Gleneve Grange smashed the High School Girls’ Discus record by more than 10 feet Friday. Her 178 feet-1 inch tossed bested the old record of 167 feet 4 inches. Her new personal best of 54.29m is a National Junior and Penn Relays record. For her achievement, Grange was named the 2012 Penn Relays High School Girls’ athlete of the meet for individual events. Tara-Sue Barnett, of Edwin Allen High School, came second with a throw of 164 feet-1-inch.
Grange’s record was the second national junior record set in the past four years at Franklin Field. In 2009, K-Don Samuels of Jamaica College broke the pole vault record.
In other action, Olivia Baker, a junior at Columbia High School in New Jersey, had the stadium rocking after she closed what looked to be an 80-meter gap and pipped Asshani Robb of Edwin Allen at the tape. Edwin Allen had opened what looked like an insurmountable lead but Baker’s strong performance negated what seemed like a sure victory.
Baker’s electrifying anchor leg time of 2.09.9 carried Columbia to a sizzling time of 8.56.37 and robbed Edwin Allen, the odds-on favorite and two-time defending champion of victory at the 119th edition of the relay carnival. Edwin Allen’s time was 8.56.37. Columbia’s win snapped a streak of five straight wins by Jamaican teams in the 4x800m.
In other action, athletes from Calabar High grabbed a 1-2 finish in the High School Boys’ discus competition. Frederick Dacres won with a throw of 68.73m, while Basil Bingham placed second with a toss of 59.69m.
Chennel Palmer of St Andrews Academy was second in the Girls High Jump Championship with 1-75m.