Vincentian athletes ready for Penn Relays 2019

Vincentian athletes ready for Penn Relays 2019
Zwicka Charles of SVG Grammar School poses after a race at Penn Relays last year.
Photo by Nelson A. King

James Cordice, the Philadelphia-based pioneer and coordinator of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ participation in the illustrious Penn Relays Carnival at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, says athletes from two secondary schools in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are eager to compete in the games this weekend.

When the three-day meet begins at the Franklin Field Stadium on Thursday, Cordice said it will be the ninth time that a Vincentian high school participates in the oldest collegiate track and field event in the United States.

The Thomas Saunders Secondary School (TSSS) will vie for the ninth time, while the St. Vincent Grammar School will compete for the third time, Cordice said.

He said TSSS’s boys and girl teams arrived in the US Sunday night, and the St. Vincent Grammar School all-boys team arrived on Friday.

Cordice said both schools will compete in the 4x100m and 4x400m events.

TSSS’s girls will compete in both events on Thursday; the boys from TSSS and the Grammar School will vie in the 4x100m on Friday; and all boys from both schools will compete in the 4 x400m on Saturday, usually the biggest attendance day.

Cordice was also instrumental in getting a Belizean high school, Ecumenical High, to participate in the games, for the first time, last year.

He said Ecumenical High is back this year, but with boys and girls’ teams — instead of only boys, as was the case in the school’s inaugural year.

Ecumenical High School’s boys and girls follow the same schedule as the Vincentian schools: the girls compete in 4x100m on Thursday, and the boys participate in the 4x100m on Friday and the 4x400m on Saturday.

“It continues to be one of the most wonderful journeys to be a part of,” Cordice told Caribbean Life on Monday about pioneering and coordinating the Vincentian effort. “I’m really appreciative of the overwhelming support of some Vincentians out here and other persons who’ve been really supporting this program.

“As long as St. Vincent and the Grenadines continues to produce vibrant athletes who want to use sports as an academic vehicle, my support is indefinite as the Father continues to bless me,” he added.

Cordice said the Vincentian athletes and nationals at the stadium will get a special treat, when the Vincentian flag is raised at the popular event for the very first time over the weekend.

“I know we’re not garnering the respect in track and field as Jamaica; but, every time I saw the Jamaican flag at the Penn Relays, it made me extremely proud to see a Caribbean flag, and I always wanted it for St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” said Cordice, an official with Team Jamaica Bickle (TJB), the Queens-based non-profit group that has been providing meals and hotel accommodation, among other things, over the years, for Jamaican and other Caribbean athletes participating in the Penn Relays. TJB is celebrating 25 years at the Penn Relays this year.

“And now, it’s coming to fruition,” Cordice added. “I just want to thank the University of Pennsylvania. It’s just the most wonderful thing (to have the Vincentian flag hoisted at the prestigious event).

In 2010, Cordice was among officers in the Philadelphia-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organization of Pennsylvania (SVGOP) to convince city officials to fly the Vincentian on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the first time. Cordice is a former SVGOP president.

“The first running of the Penn Relays for St. Vincent and the Grenadines was in 2011,” he said. “And from that very day, in 2011, I wanted to see the Vincentian flag flying with other flags, including the Jamaican flag, at the Penn Relays.”

Although last year was only the second year that the St. Vincent Grammar School was competing in the Relays Carnival, the school impressed athletic fans and supporters with its performance at the 124th staging of the games.

The all-boys teams placed third in the 4x100m and 4x400m.

This year, the Grammar School team comprises: Rolson Morgan (head coach), Curtis King (former head teacher and manager), Randy C. Boucher, Luann Weeks (chaperone), Encozie Rodgers, Malik Ferdinand, Deron Edwards, Jadyn Delpesche, Handal Roban and Nellie Ambriton.

TSSS’s teams are headed by Godfrey “Fuzzy” Harry (head coach), with La Rissa John, Shirnelle Thomas and Louis Seleyn providing management and coaching support.

The school’s boys’ team comprises: Jamal Creese, Dawson Samuel, Zimri Stephenson, Myron Matthews and Uroy Ryan.

The girls’ team includes: Almarie Providence, Tiwanny John, Kaylie Edwards, Zamesha Myle, Daniella Lewis and Shahalia Lewis.

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