THE ANNUAL MILO Western Relays, considered by residents of western Jamaica as a family affair, are lamenting that the yearly sporting event is yet to return to the west, since it has been held at GC Foster College of Physical Education and Sport in St Catherine for the last five years.

During the event’s launch at the Deja Resort in Montego Bay, St James, on Tuesday, first-time participant, Rlandi Wright, a student of Green Island High School in Westmoreland, expressed disappointment that his family wouldl not be able to watch his performance as a result.

“It is very sad that it had to (be) moved to the east. It is a one-time opportunity that the parents, grandparents and family members get to see their child performing, but moving it makes it limiting to do so. My parents won’t be able to see and watch my races and it is kind of sad for me,” Wright explained.

“I do hope for the 45th staging or in the future it will be back home where as my coach Mr McIntosh stated, it is a reunion or family affair,” he added.

Ray Harvey, the chairman of the organising committee, was likewise of the view that the relays’ long absence from western Jamaica was heartbreaking.

“When we are here in Montego Bay, it is a family affair. When we moved to GC Foster, we thought we would be away for a year, so we just went there to visit. Five years later, we have to make ourselves comfortable there because we are not sure when we are going to come back to Montego Bay,” Harvey said.

“Parents and loved ones are able to see their athletes perform. It means a lot to them but that has gone. We used to bring the elite athletes to Montego Bay like Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Asafa Powell to perform, but that has gone. Hopefully, we can rebuild and get to the point where the Shelly-Ann’s of the future would come to Montego Bay,” Harvey added.

Harvey outlined that MILO Western Relays is doing the best they can by staging the meet at the GC Foster College of Physical Education and Sport.

The mission for the organisers is to continue the development of track and field in western Jamaica.

Chevanne Lawrence, regional consumer marketing manager at MILO, stated that the Western Relays was good for the western side of the island.

“Persons before me would say when you think about MILO Western Relays, you think about Catherine Hall Stadium, the development and the schools that come there in the stadium,” said Lawrence.

“It is something good for the west and the only thing that we really want is the stadium to be back so that Mr Harvey can keep the meet in the west and we can get more western schools to participate,” Lawrence explained.

MILO, the returning title sponsor, which has been with the event for 25 years, presented a $4-million cheque to the organisers for the 44th staging on Saturday, February 11.

The middle-distance races (3,000m, 1,500m and 800m), hurdles, long and high jumps, 4x200m relays and the prep and primary races are back on the schedule this year.

Other major sponsors include Sports Development Foundation, Jamaica Olympic Association, Custom Marble, and WATA.

From the Jamaica Gleaner