Since the inception of the Grand Canyon State Games six years ago, the Rim country has been well represented in the multisport Olympic festival.
Each year, local amateur athletes of varying ages and abilities travel to the competition to test their wares against other sports enthusiasts from around the state.
Those who finish among the top three return home with Olympic-style medals that are awarded in each division of all sports.
Only two years ago, GCSG organizers doled out their most prestigious award Athletes of the Year to the Tonto Apache Tribe Track and Field Team. The squad earned the title by successful competing in the track portions of the games for several seasons in Tucson and Phoenix.
Like previous years, the Rim country is expected to send a sizable contingent of amateur athletes to the 2002 edition of the Winter Games when they begin Feb. 23 at various venues around the state.
One of the biggest draws for local athletes has been Folkstyle (high school rules) wrestling.
In 2000, the grappling games were held in Wilson Dome, but since have moved to the campus of Apache Junction High School. AJ was selected as the new site because the school is geographically closer to where other GC athletic events are held.
This year, wrestling which is offered as part of the GC Winter and Tucson games only will be held Feb. 23.
Weigh-in and registration is 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. in the Apache Junction gymnasium.
Following the weigh-in, and prior to the start of competition, at about 11 a.m., the Arizona State University coaching staff will host a free youth wrestling clinic.
Once the tournament begins, wrestlers will compete in age and weight divisions similar to USA Wrestling events.
The top finishers in each division will be awarded free entrance into the Tucson games to be held May 31 to June 2.
Athletes who win both the winter and Tucson games age/weight division championship will be presented special awards by GC officials.
The entry fee is $25 per athlete.
Call Warren Applegate at (602)795-4835 for more information.
Other Grand Canyon games Feb. 23 and 24 include outdoor sand volleyball, tennis, in-line hockey, karate, equestrian, four-on-four flag football, billiards and cycling.
In past years, Payson has sent youth teams to the flag football events, which will be held on the Tempe Diablo soccer fields
Teams compete in one of four age groups and in divisions that range from top gun (college or high school playing experience) to recreational (those who play for fun only). Games are played to 28 points or 30 minutes in length. Team rosters may include five players (one substitute), and all who enter will be guaranteed at least three games.
The entry fee is $175 for top gun, $150 for recreation division and $125 for junior (eight- to 17-years).
Call Don Henderson (602) 617-6873 for more information about football.
The equestrian competition is to be held at the Central Arizona Riding Academy in Chandler.
Participants and their mounts will compete in one of seven hunter and jumper divisions based on age and experience. USA Equestrian rules will be enforced. Entry fees are $25 for each dressage class. After a Feb. 15 deadline, a $15 late fee will be accessed.
Call the Central Arizona Riding Academy at (480) 963-1310 for more information.
The cycling events, which have always been popular among local athletes, will begin with check-in at 6:30 a.m. Feb. 24 at Gammage Auditorium on the Arizona State University campus in Tempe. Races begin at 7 a.m. on a closed course on streets and the parking lots near Gammage.
Competitors will be grouped in age/experience/ ability divisions. The entry fee is $20 for adults and $15 for juniors.
Call John and Leigh Hersey at (480) 941-1921 for more information.
Down the road
The winter games will continue March 2 and 3 with skiing and snowboarding at Arizona Snowbowl and Flagstaff Nordic Center,
The giant slalom and snowboard giant slalom events begin at 11 a.m. on the Agassiz Meadows and Rattlesnake Trails at the Snowbowl Agassiz Lodge.
Nordic 5K and 10K races as well as a 2K snowshoe race will begin at 9 a.m. March 2 and 3 at the Nordic Center.
Registration, which is $15 for each event, will be accepted up to and on race day. However, GC officials are encouraging early sign-up.
Call the Flagstaff Ski Team at (928) 773-9707 for more information.
Other sports of local interest that weekend include shooting (Phoenix Ben Avery Ranger), track and field (Tempe Desert Vista High School) and table tennis (Phoenix Grace Christian School).
March 9 and 10, the games will feature competition in softball (Scottsdale El Dorado Park), rowing (Tempe Town Lake) and archery (Black Canyon Archery Range and Archery Mountain Park Archery Range).
The final events of the games will be 5-on-5 basketball competition at Cesar Chavez High School, Mesa Dobson High School, Arizona State University Recreation Complex and the Phoenix Salvation Army gymnasium March 22 to 24
Divisions include both boys and girls in school grades three through 10. Participants must also meet an age requirement based on their age as of Sept. 1
Adult tournaments will also be held in men's competitive, men's recreational and women's competitive divisions.
Registration is $225 per team if received by March 9. After that date, a $15 late fee will be accessed. AAU rules will be enforced.
For information on girls basketball, call Debbie Moulton at (480) 755-3930.
For boys tournament information, call Brian Zahn (602) 819-2507.
To sign up
Participants in the games must be residents of Arizona for at least 30 days prior to the first day of competition.
Registration forms and pamphlets detailing each Grand Canyon game winter sport offering are available at the 76/Circle K North convenience store. According to manager Dale Strothmann, the store has a good supply of the registration forms but more will be ordered if needed. 76/Circle K is now in its fifth years as a presenting sponsor of the games.