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USVI Athletes Shine Brightly at Recent Competitions; Eduardo Garcia Secures Olympic Spot

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Eduardo Garcia celebrates his qualifying run. Photo via Instagram.

Eduardo Garcia, the Virgin Islands’ standout athlete, shattered the VI record in the Half Marathon by clocking a stunning 1:03:53 in Istanbul, Turkey, on April 28. This remarkable performance has earned him a spot at the 2024 Olympic Games, where he is set to compete in the Marathon on August 10.

On the high school track, Michelle Smith has been dominating her season, as evidenced by her recent haul of gold medals at the Florida High Schools District Championships on April 30. Smith opened her day with a winning 5.38-meter long jump, followed by a victory in the 100m hurdles with a time of 14.31 seconds. She didn’t stop there; she triumphed in the 400m hurdles, finishing in 57.56 seconds, and anchored her 4×400 relay team to gold with a time of 3:41.28. Currently ranked in the top 40 globally for the 400m hurdles, Smith is a strong contender for Olympic qualification.

Nicola Peters also made headlines with her performance at the Alabama High Schools District Championships on April 26 and 27, where she earned silver medals in both the 100m and 200m events, recording times of 12.27 and 24.84 seconds, respectively. Peters rounded off her achievements with another silver in the 4x100m relay alongside her teammates from Sparkman High. She is now set to compete at the Alabama State Championships on May 13.

In collegiate athletics, Rachel Conhoff, a graduate student at Indiana State University, broke her own Virgin Islands national record in the 1500m event at the Bill Hayes Invitational in Bloomington, Indiana, on May 3. She posted a record-breaking time of 4:26.72, which is also the fifth fastest in the university’s history.

Additionally, sprinter Sofia Swindell has earned her spot at the Under 20 World Championships in Lima, Peru, this August. Competing at the Ed Poreda Invitational in Lawrenceville, NJ, Swindell clinched first in the 100m hurdles with a swift 14.20 seconds and set a personal best of 11.96 seconds in the 100m dash, taking home the gold.

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VIGL Secures One-Year License to Operate Racino at St. Croix’s Randall “Doc” James Racetrack

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VIGL Operations LLC’s Chief Financial Officer, Andrew Dubuque, expressed a mix of anticipation and caution following the Casino Control Commission’s approval to grant the company a license to operate a casino at St. Croix’s Randall “Doc” James racetrack. This decision, announced on Thursday, represents a significant milestone in a journey punctuated by hurdles and delays.

While specific conditions from the Virgin Islands Casino Control Commission (VICCC) are still pending, the approval allows VIGL to move forward. VICCC’s Chair and CEO, Marvin Pickering, confirmed that the resolutions would be issued promptly, although it remains unclear when construction, which has stalled for several months, will recommence. VIGL now faces the dual task of completing both the racetrack and the casino, expected to open concurrently.

The project, which began in 2016, aimed to revamp the horse racing tracks on St. Croix and St. Thomas. However, resistance from gaming entities on St. Thomas in 2020 led VIGL to withdraw from the initial agreement, citing continuous government and private sector disruptions. A renewed agreement in 2022 reignited efforts to revitalize the St. Croix track, despite a subsequent reduction in the construction scope presented in 2023.

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. voiced his frustration earlier this year over VIGL’s sluggish progress, particularly their hesitation to advance without a casino operation guarantee at the racetrack. However, a pivotal Casino Control Commission hearing followed, culminating in the issuance of a one-year racino license to VIGL.

During the hearing, Mr. Pickering highlighted the comprehensive nature of the vetting process and the importance of the commission’s deliberations. He acknowledged the cultural significance of horse racing in the community, stating that the casino license approval would facilitate the sport’s comeback on St. Croix. He stressed the critical need for thorough examination of all applications, noting that the integrity and financial suitability of the applicants had been rigorously assessed, involving third-party consultations.

The meeting also saw the issuance of two-year licenses to several key casino personnel and a four-year renewal of VIGL’s license for the Caravelle Hotel and Casino. Concluding the session, Mr. Pickering expressed optimism about the eventual completion of the racetrack project, looking forward to resuming traditional horse racing activities.

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Excitement Builds as Horse Racing Returns to St. Thomas with Carnival Celebration

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After a seven-year hiatus, horse racing is making a triumphant return next month at the Clinton Phipps Racetrack in St. Thomas, ushering in a new chapter for this long-missed tradition during the vibrant Carnival season.

Calvert White, Commissioner of the V.I. Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation, shared insights during a recent press briefing at Government House about the extensive preparations to rejuvenate the racetrack. Initially confronted with overgrown foliage and a neglected track, the team has transformed the venue, reducing towering 12-foot mangroves to enhance visibility and spreading 200 tons of sand to perfect the racing surface. A new watering system has also been implemented, adding to the facility’s upgrades.

The racetrack now boasts modern grandstand seating, provided by Southland Gaming, which is three times larger than before and elevated to offer superior views of the races. Spectators can secure comfortable, pre-assigned folding chairs for $40 each, ensuring a relaxing and enjoyable experience.

Highlighting safety as a paramount concern, White outlined the introduction of metal detectors, scanners, and additional private security measures. Convenient parking will be available for $5 at nearby schools, complete with a continuous shuttle service. General admission is set at $25, while children aged 12 and under can enjoy the festivities for just $5. For the first time, tickets can be purchased online under the “Rebirth of Carnival Races” campaign on Eventbrite, streamlining entry with a dedicated line for those with pre-paid tickets.

An exclusive VIP section will cater to about 100 guests, featuring its own bar and appetizers for $125 per ticket. Races are scheduled to start at 1:00 p.m., with subsequent races every 45 minutes, interspersed with entertainment such as DJs, step shows, and calypso performances to keep the crowd engaged.

With these meticulous preparations and a focus on enhancing the spectator experience, Commissioner White expressed confidence that the return of horse racing to the Clinton Phipps Racetrack on May 4 will captivate Carnival attendees, marking a vibrant revival of this cherished sporting tradition.

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Virgin Islands Athletes Shatter National Records in Track and Field

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Virgin Islands athletes Rachel Conhoff and Eduardo Garcia have set new national records in track and field, showcasing remarkable progress in their sports careers.

Rachel Conhoff, a committed member of the Virgin Islands Track and Field Team and a graduate student at Indiana State University, broke the Virgin Islands record for the 3000m Steeplechase at the Gary Wieneke Memorial event in Champaign, Illinois. Competing on April 13, Conhoff secured fourth place with a new record time of 11:11.15. She is now gearing up for her next challenge at the Gibson Invitational in Terre Haute, Indiana, slated for April 18-20, 2024.

Eduardo Garcia, another standout athlete, set a Virgin Islands national record in the 10,000 Meters during the Cooper River Bridge 10K Run in Charleston, South Carolina. Amidst a field of over 26,000 participants, Garcia achieved an impressive 15th place finish, clocking in at 29:31. He is now diligently preparing for the Olympic Games in Paris, focusing on the Marathon event. His upcoming competition is the Half Marathon in Istanbul on April 28, 2024, where he hopes to maintain his exceptional performance.

Additionally, Virgin Islands Track and Field Team’s Malique Smith delivered strong performances in the 400m Hurdles. At the Florida Relays in Gainesville, Florida, held on March 29, Smith captured third place in his heat with a time of 51.40 seconds. He also competed at the Tom Jones Memorial Invitational in Gainesville, where he finished eighth in his heat with a time of 53.27 on April 12. Smith is eagerly anticipating his next race at the Pure Athletics Invitational in Clermont, Florida, on April 20, 2024.

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