Penn Relays defends schedule change
Associate Director of Penn Relays, Aaron Robison, is convinced the right decision was made with the new scheduling of high school events at the popular meet where, starting this year, boys will compete on Thursday and Friday and girls on Friday and Saturday.
Robison, who took over from long-serving director Dave Johnson in December 2021, in a recent interview with STAR Sports, argues that the girls were not being allowed the spotlight, despite having stellar performances in the past.
"Over the years our female athletes have had some exceptional performances at the world level, including the likes of Sydney McLaughlin and Dahlilah Mohamad from the United States, along with Elaine Thompson Herah, Shericka Jackson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce from Jamaica, and in the past, these athletes, while in high school, did not get the chance to showcase their talents to a big Franklinfield crowd on a Saturday at the Penn Relays, and I think that was unfortunate," said Robison, who also remembered the outstanding performances of dominant Vere Technical and Camperdown High girls' teams in the past.
"Last year we had some exceptional performances from the Edwin Allen and the Hydel girls and most of the fans did not get the chance to witness that, and we at the Penn Relays believe in equal rights and we want our girls to get the same opportunities like the boys, and in future, we want to ensure that. In years to come, people will look back and say we saw those stars on a Saturday at the Penn Relays," he continued.
Several of Jamaica's top high school coaches, in a recent interview with The Gleaner, had mixed feelings about the change and thought that enough consultation was not made with local stakeholders before the decision was made.
"This was something long in the making and discussion was done with members of Team Bickle and other high school executives in Jamaica about this, and I think this change will be creative and people will adjust their travel plans as Penn Relays is a massive track and field meet in the USA and those fans from Jamaica, especially from the diaspora and the islands, will not want to miss that.
"When you make changes, there will be some issues at first but we want both boys and girls to compete on a Saturday and the fans will understand this, so we have done it on a rotational basis as next year it will be the other way around and I am confident this will work," Robison stated.
One of the major highlights on a Saturday among the seniors is usually the USA vs The World in relay clashes, which showcase several of the leading athletes in the world in action. Like last year, this will not happen again.
"Last year we saw these athletes clashing in individual events like 100 metres hurdles, 110 metres hurdles, 300 metres and 600 metres and it was first class and once again these events are on the card. In the future, we may get back to the USA vs The World in relay clashes, but at the moment, we have some issues to sort out and we will see what happens," said Robison.