Decision to drop middle and long distance relays sparks controversy

National Schools Relay Carnival


by Reemus Fernando

An Education Ministry decision to drop the 4x800 metres and 4x1500 metres relays, the two longest distances from the All Island Schools Relay Carnival has become a bone of contention with some outstation schools calling it a ploy to deny them opportunities of winning the Relay Championships.

Education Ministry officials with strong connections to some of Colombo’s power houses of schools athletics "who are hell-bent on shifting the winning advantage at the Relay Carnival from outstation schools to Colombo" are alleged to have made recommendations to drop the above two relays.

Analysis of past records show that outstation schools had dominated these events more often than not.

Instead of 4x800 metres and 4x1500 metres the so called officials have decided to introduce 4x50 metres relays to the Under-14 age category.

The longest distances of the annual relay carnival have been dominated by outstation schools who nurture many a distance runners.

"There is no clear reason for them to drop these events. If you drop these events outstation schools will suffer in two ways. First it is the outstation schools who nurture distance runners. They will not be able to keep their athletes interested in the sport. Outstation schools will also not be able to win a single championship as it is these events that have helped them gain points," says an official of a leading outstation school.

An official of a leading Central College said that the decision to award points to lower age category events will also deny many a Central Colleges chance to top points tables as they do not have students in their schools in lower age categories.

The Relay Carnival has helped schools keep their second string athletes interested in track events as only the topnotch athletes are selected for other athletics championships.

"You can produce a good athlete only when you have several athletes in the same age category train with him. Relay Carnival is the ideal place to keep these second string athletes interested," said one official.

However, when contacted Sunil Jayaweera, the special adviser to the Minister of Education said that the Ministry has taken the decision only to drop the 4x1,500 metres. He said that the decision to drop 4x1,500 metres was taken to make the Relay Carnival an attractive championship.

"We will not drop the 4x800 metres. We have dropped only the 4x1500 metres relay. It was not a sudden decision. The decision was taken late last year. Officials from Zonal level and officials of the Sri Lanka Schools Athletics Association were consulted before taking the decision," he said.

"There are very few schools taking part in the 4x1500m relay. We found it difficult to get entries for these events when we conducted it last year."

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