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NATIONAL YOUTH TRACK & FIELD CHAMPIONS TO BE CROWNED AT 28TH ANNUAL ARCO JESSE OWENS GAMES IN LOS ANGELES

 NATIONAL YOUTH TRACK & FIELD CHAMPIONS TO BE CROWNED
 AT 28TH ANNUAL ARCO JESSE OWENS GAMES IN LOS ANGELES
 LOS ANGELES, Aug. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- While track and field superstars Carl Lewis and Evelyn Ashford are basking in the twilight of their respective careers at the Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, a group of 192 young athletes will take their first steps to future stardom by competing here this weekend in the 28th annual ARCO Jesse Owens Games track and field National Championships.
 The athletes, all between the ages of 11-14, represent eight regions of the country and will be competing for Olympic-style gold, silver and bronze medals in the ARCO Jesse Owens Games national championship meet Friday night at Occidental College's Patterson Field. The meet begins at 5:30 p.m. and will be preceded by a parade of athletes, past Olympians and TAC officials at 5 p.m.
 In all, 24 athletes will be crowned national champion following competition, by age group, in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes, the 1,500-meter run, the long jump, high jump and the softball throw.
 In reaching Friday's national finals, all 192 athletes won regional championships and will compete here, representing one of eight regional teams: West Coast (Southern California), Pacific Northwest (Washington & Oregon), South Alaska, North Alaska, Gold Rush (Northern California, Northern Nevada), Desert (Arizona, Southern Nevada, New Mexico), Southwest (Texas), East Coast (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Washington, D.C.).
 The ARCO Jesse Owens Games is the nation's largest participatory youth track and field program. The games annually reach more than 800,000 young people between the ages of 7-14 through local, qualifying and district meets conducted by parks and recreation departments and school districts throughout the country.
 Each regional team at nationals consists of 12 boys and 12 girls who will compete in the program's 11-12 and 13-14-year-old age groups. These national finalists will be treated to four, all- expenses-paid, days in Los Angeles that will include a trip to Disneyland and a gala Hall of Fame banquet at the Pasadena Center. While in Los Angeles, the athletes and their chaperones will be housed at Occidental College. The program's two youngest age groups (7-8, 9-10) do not advance beyond the regional level.
 Friday's national meet will be conducted by the County of Los Angeles Parks and Recreation Department. Members of the Southern California chapter of The Athletics Congress (TAC) will officiate the sanctioned meet.
 Remarks by Ruth Owens, wife of 1936 Olympic champion Jesse Owens who started the program and helped develop it with ARCO until his death in 1980, will highlight opening ceremonies.
 Owens often reminisces about how the program got its start when Jesse approached ARCO in the mid-1960's about developing a participatory program for youngsters that would introduce them to the basics of track and field competition. Realization of his ARCO Jesse Owens Games dream provided him with a means to reach out to "this country's greatest natural resource -- its young people." Through the program, Jesse Owens shared his knowledge and talent with millions of young athletes over the years, affording youngsters an opportunity he hadn't enjoyed as a youth.
 While Lewis, whose heroics somewhat mirror Jesse Owens' achievements, and Ashford both achieved world-wide fame for their performances in the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games, few realize they got their start in track and field participating in the ARCO Jesse Owens Games as youngsters.
 Many other well-known athletes and Olympians were also introduced to track and field by taking part in the program as youngsters, including Florence Griffith-Joyner, Michael Carter, Mike Conley, Sherri and Denean Howard, Willie Banks, Carol Lewis, Renaldo Brown and Jason Grimes.
 Carl Lewis, who was a four-time loser in the ARCO Jesse Owens Games as a youngster in Willingsboro, N.J., and other Olympians, like the 1,600-meter relay gold medalist Howard sisters, often give unsolicited testimony to the inspiration Jesse Owens gave them as youngsters taking part in the program.
 By virtue of qualifying for Friday's national meet, all 192 competitors also become candidates for one of eight regional $2,000 ARCO Jesse Owens Games scholarships awarded annually to a participant from each region taking part in the program. Scholarship winners are selected based on an application submitted after the regional championships that includes an essay, documented academic achievement and listings of other extracurricular activities.
 Individual athletic performance at the national meet is not considered in the scholarship selection process. The scholarships are for college or technical school use after high school graduation. Scholarship winners will be announced at Saturday night's Hall of Fame banquet.
 -0- 8/5/92
 /CONTACT: Scott Loll of ARCO, 213-486-2562, for the 28th Annual Jesse Owens Games/ CO: ARCO; 28th Annual Jesse Owens Games ST: California IN: SU:


EH-JL -- LA018 -- 7142 08/05/92 13:58 EDT
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Date:Aug 5, 1992
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