Philly hosts qualifying meet for Hershey's Games

Posted: May 18, 2012

OLYMPIC LEGEND Carl Lewis enjoys serving as an ambassador for the Hershey's Track and Field Games because he remembers when he was an aspiring young runner himself.

Youngsters ages 9 to 14 are invited to participate in a qualifying meet at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Northeast High School, with a chance to earn an expenses-paid trip to compete in the 2012 North American Final Meet in Hershey.

"Years ago, I ran a track meet where the winners qualified to go to San Francisco," said Lewis, who grew up in Willingboro, N.J. "At that track meet I met this old runner named Jesse Owens."

Lewis says he was about 13 at the time.

Meeting Owens had a galvanizing effect on the young Lewis, who while competing in the 1984 Olympics went on to tie Owens' record of four gold medals from the 1936 Games, long considered an unthinkable achievement.

Lewis still has the picture of himself and Owens from that day almost 40 years ago.

"I never forgot that," Lewis said. "I always hope there is some kid that I will see at these events that will meet Carl Lewis one day and have his own picture up that says, 'I matched his nine gold medals.' I understand what it could mean to them because of how it transformed me."

Lewis' partnership with Hershey's is now nearly 20 years old, and while it sends him traveling all around the country, he says he makes a point to ensure that he is able to attend the finals in Hershey.

"I really enjoy it, especially the North American final," he said. "[The kids] are so excited about trying to compete, but they also don't forget the fact that it's about competition."

The Hershey's Games are the largest and longest-running youth activity program of its kind in North America and has aided the athletic development of more than 10 million children.

The aim of the venture is to promote fitness, exercise, fun and family. Part of its success can be attributed to the all-inclusive nature of what Lewis calls "the No. 1 participatory sport among America's youth."

"The great thing about track and field is that it's probably the only sport where everyone can compete," he said. "Fast, slow, tall, short, male, female, weak, strong, heavy, slim - you get a pair of shoes, you go out, and everyone can do it."

Potential participants for Tuesday's meet may sign up at hersheystrackandfield.com.


Contact Alex Lee at leea@phillynews.com

 

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