Since the inception of the Grand Canyon State Games nine years ago, the Rim country has been well represented in the athletic competition that has grown to now include 37 events.
This year should be no exception as local teams, and individuals, have been practicing and preparing for the games set to begin Friday and continue until June 17.
Sports to be contested include flag football, cycling, bowling, golf, diving, swimming, hockey, gymnastics and others.
New events added this year are power lifting, karate and rowing. GC games officials predict 9,000 participants will show up for the annual amateur Olympic-style contests.
Opening ceremonies will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday in America West Arena. Executive commissioners Tom Gugliotta of the Phoenix Suns and Luis Gonzales of the Arizona Diamondbacks will co-host the festivities.
One of the highlights of the ceremonies is expected to be the traditional Parade of Athletes into the arena and the lighting of the flame.
Members of the Harlem Globetrotters will also participate.
How to sign up
Locals wishing to participate but who have not registered may pick up individual and team entry booklets at Payson Circle K North.
Circle K/76 is in its fourth year as one of the presenting sponsors of the GC games. According to Payson Circle K North manager Dale Strothmanns, patrons gobbled up forms quickly when they first arrived. Seeing his booklets depleted last week, Strothmanns quickly order more, which are now on store shelves.
Those failing to register early still have hope. Most of the events scheduled for various sites in Phoenix will have on-site registration but some require late fees.
The entry booklets contain location, dates, times and entry fees for all of the events. Also, call (480) 517-9700 or log onto www.gcsg.org for more information.
Set to shine
One of the sports the Rim country will be best represented in will be youth soccer.
Boys and girls teams, coached by Ray LaHaye, Linda Gibson and Roger Wholly, are set to enter youth division competition.
LaHaye will coach a boys 16-years- and-under team, Gibson the Lady Longhorn coach will take a 16-years-and-under girls team and Wholly will coach the boys and girls all-star teams in the 14-and-under games.
Wholly is the newly appointed Payson High School head boys soccer coach.
The soccer competition is held June 15 to 17 at Mesa Red Mountain High School, Mesa Skyline High School and Tempe Diablo stadium.
Local soccer coaches say they will learn the exact times and dates of their games late this week.
In the track and field GC competition, to be held in Sun Angel Stadium on the campus of Arizona State University, the Tonto Apache team will send several representatives.
Last year, the Tonto Apache team was named the Grand Canyon Games "Male and Female Athletes of the Year" for its longtime participation in the competition.
Another sport in which the Rim country is always well represented wrestling was contested June 2 in Payson.
Wrestling was included as part of the Tucson competition of the GC games.
During the day-long games in Wilson Dome, grapplers from around the state battled for gold-medal rights.
Among the local winners in the high school division were Ingo Beck (gold), Nate Lee (gold), Zack Lee (gold), Bryce River (silver), Larry Wilbanks (bronze) and Daniel Reisdorf (bronze).
In the middle school/junior high division were Andy Sanders (gold), Porter Wilbanks (gold), Tyler Goodman (silver) and Don Engler (silver).
Among the elementary school division winners were Steele Armstrong (gold), Nick Goodman (gold), Gunner Goodman (gold), Garrett Gray (gold), Sharod Hardt (Silver), Mike Costello (silver), Eddie Welch (silver), B.J. Welch (silver), Ben Lee (silver) and Paul Obregon (bronze).
Next fall, winners of the 6th to 12th grade divisions will be presented Triple Crown Awards they won both in the Payson tournament and the 2000 Winter Games tournament.