Canada’s top youth track and field athletes coming to town

The spotlight will be on Langley and McLeod Athletic Park as Canada’s best young track and field athletes come to town for the Legion National Youth Track and Field championships.

The spotlight will be on Langley and McLeod Athletic Park as Canada’s best young track and field athletes come to town for the Legion National Youth Track and Field championships.

Tuesday marked the official press conference for the major championships, which will be held in early August in both 2013 and 2014.

Members for the Royal Canadian Legion, who sponsor the event, the Township of Langley, Trinity Western University, the Langley Mustangs Track and Field Club, and B.C. Athletics were on hand at McLeod Park.

The Mustangs will be the host club, while the Legion will oversee the event.

Trinity Western will house the close to 900 athletes in town for the week-long event.

The championships feature Canada’s top athletes between the ages of 14 and 17.

“Youth today face many challenges, and track and field sports have a tremendous outlook on development and confidence for our young men and women, our future leaders of tomorrow,” said Lesley Maudsley, who has been appointed by the Legion to serve as the event’s committee chair.

With the Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command looking for a venue to host the event in B.C., they narrowed it down and chose Langley and the Mustangs to partner with.

Once the Township was approached, it quickly got on board.

“It fits our vision towards sports tourism,” said David Leavers, the Township’s director of recreation, culture and parks.

“And we have a great facility which we know can accommodate this event.”

Leavers was referring to the Township hosting last year’s B.C. Summer Games.

The Summer Games generated more than $2 million in economic activity for the Township, but that event, while done over a shorter span, featured more athletes and officials.

Regardless, it is expected to be a boon for the local economy.

“This will be not only a celebration of sport, but a celebration of all we have to offer as a community,” said Township Councillor Bev Dornan, who was filling in for Mayor Rick Green, who was absent due to a family issue.

“These competitions will not only give our country’s top athletes a chance to shine and achieve their dreams, they will create a lasting imprint on our community.

“These events will put our community in the spotlight, once again showcasing our facilities and our community spirit, and the positive impact created will leave a legacy for years to come.”

The Legion has sponsored the championships for more than 40 years.

The championships evolved from the Legion’s Foster Father’s Program following the Second World War.

With so many children left fatherless as a result of the war, the Legion created sporting activities as beacons of hope for the youngsters.

Over the years, this evolved into the Canadian Olympic Training Plan, which later became the national track and field championships for this age group.

Mustangs president Brent Dolfo said the Legion meet can be a springboard for future athletes who have their sights set on representing Canada.

“Our club has many outstanding athletes who have competed for Canada internationally,” Dolfo said. “This meet will provide the stepping stone for our next generation of young athletes who are dreaming about following in their footsteps.”

Fifteen-year-old Georgia Ellenwood, a Mustangs member who will attend this August’s Legion championships for the second straight year, was on hand for Tuesday’s press conference.

At last year’s competition, Ellenwood captured a gold medal and three silvers.

She was one of a handful of Langley athletes at last year’s Legion championships.

And while Ellenwood will be past the age restriction of the event when it comes to Langley, she said local athletes will definitely be at an advantage competing in their hometown since they will be familiar with the facilities and comfortable in their own environment.