Thursday, March 15, 2012

Athletes visit Bloomington this weekend for indoor track and field championships: www.heraldtimesonline.com

Categories: HSC News

One set of Bloomington's elite athletes might be across the country this weekend, but hundreds more will be flocking to the city for a national track and field championship starting Friday.

Hundreds of track and field competitors ages 35 to 94 - among them at least 100 reigning champions, Olympians and one former NFL player - will participate in the USA Masters Indoor Track and Field Championships, which start Friday morning and run through Sunday. Organizers say the event will give spectators the chance to see some of the finest adult athletes in the country and will help spread the message of "lifelong fitness" to those who attend. "If they want to see the best, most fit adult athletes in the world competing and breaking records, they will come to the meet," said Bob Weiner, USATF national masters media committee chairman.

Meanwhile, the event - which Bloomington is hosting this year for the first time - is also expected to boost the city's economy during a usually slow time of the year.

The championships begin at 9 a.m. Friday with pentathlon events, followed by individual track and field events from 1 to 6:15 p.m. Friday, from 9 a.m. to 6:25 p.m. Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 1:20 p.m. Sunday. All events will be held at Indiana University's Harry Gladstein Fieldhouse and are free and open to the public.

About 1,000 people are expected to come to Bloomington this weekend in conjunction with the championship meet, including athletes, officials, trainers and spectators, said Eric Marvin, director of sports development for Hoosier Sports Corp., a division of Visit Bloomington. All told, those visitors are expected to spend $180,000 to $300,000 while filling up hotels and restaurants during a time of the year that is often fairly slow, he said. "Then we know, obviously, that's going to trickle down through the economy and the impact (will be) significantly larger than the direct spending," Marvin said.

The event is the second of three track and field events the city will be hosting this year, Marvin said. The city held the smaller USA Track and Field Indoor Combined Events Championships earlier this month, and in June it will play host to the USA Junior Outdoor Track and Field Championships, an event expected to be even larger than this weekend's championships.

About 800 athletes will compete this weekend, Weiner said. Among those are some relatively new to the sport - like Bloomington resident Greg Simmons, competing for the first time - while others are the reigning champions in their individual age brackets. Many are honing their skills in preparation for the world championships in Finland in two weeks, he said.

Among the most noteworthy athletes are Philippa Raschker - a two-time finalist for the James E. Sullivan Memorial Award, a prestigious honor given to athletes including Tim Tebow, LeBron James and Michael Phelps - and Phil McConkey, a wide receiver for the 1987 Super Bowl champion New York Giants, Weiner said. Nolan Shaheed, a distance runner, is a world-class jazz musician who played trumpet for such artists as Dizzy Gillespie, Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye.

The oldest competitors are three men in the 90-94 age bracket and one woman in the 85-89 group. Weiner said watching the meet can inspire people to pursue their own physical fitness for life. Spectators can also cheer on their own hometown heroes this weekend. At least eight Bloomington residents, including Simmons, will compete in various events.

Simmons is a two-time champion in power-lifting, and he will be competing in another masters weight-lifting event in Georgia in two weeks. Having this event in Bloomington, however, inspired him to try out a new competition: a 60-meter sprint. The 46-year-old, an adjunct professor at IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation and a personal trainer at the Iron Pit Gym Fitness Center, has been training three times a week and working with a coach to refine his technique. "We (he and other friends from the Iron Pit) are always looking for some kind of physical challenge, and since it was close, we figured, ‘What the
heck?'" Simmons said.

USA Masters Indoor Track and Field Championships
WHAT: Hundreds of track and field competitors ages 35 to 94 - among them Olympians and one former NFL player - will participate in the national
competition.
WHERE: Harry Gladstein Fieldhouse on the Indiana University Bloomington campus.
WHEN: The championships begin at 9 a.m. today with pentathlon events, followed by individual track and field events from 1 to 6:15 p.m. today, from
9 a.m. to 6:25 p.m. Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 1:20 p.m. Sunday.
HOW MUCH: Events are free and open to the public.
INFO: www.usatf.org/events/2012/USAMastersIndoorTFChampionships/