Local Athletes Gear Up For Grand Canyon Games

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The Rim country has a long and storied record of successes in the Grand Canyon State Games.

Since the inception of the Arizona's multi-sport Olympic-style festival, throngs of local residents have participated in both the summer and winter games.

The highlight of Rim residents' participation occurred several years ago when the Tonto Apache track and field boys and girls teams were chosen the Grand Canyon State Game's "Athletes of the Year." The teams were chosen because of their many years of successful participation.

In 2000, Payson was selected as the site for the Grand Canyon games wrestling events.

When the winter edition of the games begin Jan. 17 in the Valley and Flagstaff, the Rim country is again expected to be well-represented.

The games continue, mostly on weekends, until March 27 and 28 when squash competition is held at the Village Racquet and Health Club in Phoenix.

The 2004 edition of the winter games has grown during its 12-year existence to now feature competition in 24 sports.

Sports to be contested include arm wrestling, archery, basketball, bowling, hockey, skiing and snowboarding, shooting, indoor soccer, tennis, indoor volleyball and wrestling.

According to officials, the competition is designed for amateur athletes of all ages and abilities. The games provide participants with an avenue for positive personal development through sports and physical activity.

To enter the games, athletes much be a resident of Arizona for at least 30 days immediately prior to the first day of competition.

Age and skill level requirements are established by each sport's governing body or commissioner.

While entering more than one sport is acceptable, games officials discourage athletes from doing so. They reason that the competitive format and the possibility of overlapping schedules can create conflicts.

At the conclusion of each competition, Olympic-style gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded.

To enter the winter games, visit any 76/Circle K or Bashas' store and pick up an information booklet. The booklets contain general information about the games and specific details of each sport.

Also in the booklet is a registration form. Registration fees differ for each sport.

The Co-Executives Commissioners of the games are Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Randy Johnson and Phoenix Suns forward Tom Gugliotta. Governor Janet Napolitano is the honorary chairperson.

In addition to the winter games, the Lori Piestewa National Native American Games will be held in Flagstaff, Page and Tuba City July 15 to 18.

Like the Rim country's long history of successful participation in the Grand Canyon Games, several Payson Native Americans have shown well in the Piestewa games. Last summer, Payson resident Tom Cooka was a multi-event winner.

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