A Unique Program for our Youth
The Track and Field program of Ontario Command is unique in that it is the only program of its kind in the province that offers both a summer and winter meet to girls and boys 17 years of age and under. Athletes can compete at two other levels (zone and district) and those that qualify at these levels can progress to the provincial level. Those who qualify at the provincial level can advance to the national level. The provincial winter meet gives the athletes an opportunity to hone their skills and maintain their level of achievement in their various events.
We have maintained this program for many years, with participation of in excess of 400 athletes at both the winter and summer meets. The numbers at zone and district level vary, with between 250 to 400 athletes at these levels. Many athletes have and will participate in the program for up to five years. We are very proud that many have gone on to become very prominent in the sports field. No less than 26 athletes, who participated in the Olympic Games held in Los Angeles, have come through the Legion program. Wayne Gretzky, though best known as a hockey legend, also participated in our track and field program and won a medal at the provincial level.
Athletes must qualify at provincial meets to advance further and this brings in top calibre athletes. A fitting example of the success of our program is that all Canadian medal winners at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles came up through the Legion track and field program.
The meets would not be feasible without the 100 plus volunteers it takes to run them and Ontario Command sponsors hundreds of young athletes across the province at an average annual cost of $ 75,000. The athletes do not pay to participate and all costs are paid by the Legion, including transportation, accommodation and meals. In some cases, branches also make a donation to include some spending money.
We are very proud of our program. While it primarily assists young athletes to be the best they can be, it also allows them to develop confidence, maturity, and new friends as they participate through the age categories.