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The GraceKennedy Group yesterday solidified their commitment to the 2017 Inter Secondary Schools Sport Association (ISSA) Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championships by handing over a cheque for $63m in a total sponsorship package worth $110 million.

For the first time in the 107-year history of the prestigious event, the winning schools will receive direct financial rewards. The champions will receive $1 million each, with the runners-up pocketing $700,000 each and the third-placed schools collecting $500,000. Calabar High and Edwin Allen High are the defending champions.

At at a press launch at the Spanish Court Hotel yesterday, it was also disclosed that there will be a five per cent increase in cost of tickets for the five-day event set to start on Tuesday, March 28, and ending on Saturday, April 1, inside the National Stadium.

Andrea Coy, CEO of Grace Foods Jamaica, said her company is very committed to track and field in particular and sports in general, and their many sponsorship engagements are testament to that.

“This brings joy to the students and supporters alike and provides an opportunity to showcase our nation’s talent every year, where athletes bring their best to the event after months of intense training, preparation and sacrifice,” said Coy.

“While we get immense pleasure out of supporting Champs, our deeper motive is not only about the fun factor. We back Champs because we believe that sports and all that goes into achieving in this area have powerful transformational effects on our youth. Excelling in the sport can be a gateway to opportunities that will change the life chances of our young men and women,” Coy added.

Another $7 million will be offered to subsidise the 225 participating schools, funds earmarked to offset expenses.

Colleen Montague, chairman of the organising committee, had high praises for the contribution sponsors.

“Today we express our deep gratitude to our sponsors GraceKennedy; to FLOW for telecommunication support, which will facilitate our links to thousands who cannot make it to the stadium; to Lucozade for vital rehydration supplies for our athletes; to the six days a week First Global Bank for handling finances; and Puma who makes us look good and forever running faster,” said Montague.

She also thanked her event sponsor Consumer Brands for cosmetic products, Main Events for event planning and technical support, and Brawta Sports for online registration and social media management, along with Pure National Ice, which will provide ice therapy for the athletes.

Tickets will go on sale on the opening day at 7:00 am and patrons are asked to fork out as much as $5,000 for a grandstand ticket for Saturday, the final day of the five-day festival.

“We have been forced to increase ticket prices because of the inflation, but the increase is minimal — only five per cent,” noted Montaque.

The opening day on Tuesday will be free, while children are asked to pay $100 on Wednesday and Thursday with adults paying $500. On Friday students in uniform will pay $350, and adults will pay $500 for the bleachers section and $3,500 for grandstand.

Meanwhile, there was a new twist on an established concept. Over the years the organisers have recognised honorees, but this year they will be known as Champs Ambassadors. Four individuals, who represented the spirit of Champs over the years will be the first set of Champs Ambassadors. They are former athletes Everald Samuels (STATHS) and Juliet Campbell (St Jago); coach Claude Grant (Herbert Morrison), along with official Georgia Francis.

“Given the fact that we have so many outstanding individuals who have dedicated themselves to the development of track and field in Jamaica, it is never an easy task to single out persons each year to be appointed to this elite designated group,” Montague explained.

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