Area Athletes Head To Grand Canyon Games

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It's only fitting that a pair of the state's finest basketball players are serving as executive commissioners of the Grand Canyon State Summer Games.

Phoenix Suns star Shawn Marion and Mercury standout Diana Taurasi will oversee the amateur contests to be held June 21 through June 24 in several Valley-area venues.

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Youth basketball will be among the sports offerings at the Grand Canyon State Games June 21-24 at various venues in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Among the most popular offerings of the games has long been the basketball competition, which has drawn teams from Payson and around the state.

In all, basketball and 29 other team and individual sports will be held during the games.

During past games, Payson athletes used the competition as an opportunity to showcase their skills on a statewide stage.

Payson sent representatives in flag football, wrestling, track and field, mountain biking, golf, volleyball and basketball.

Among the most commendable performances turned in by a local competitor was the three-gold medal-winning effort of Lana Cluff in 2005.

Participating in the intermediate girls class (15/16 years old) at Mesa Community College, Cluff shrugged off the wilting effects of searing desert heat to win the 800 meters, 1,500 meters and 3,000 meters.

The rich ties the Rim Country has with the games extends back to 2000, when the Tonto Apache Track and Field team was selected the organizations Male and Female Athletes of the Year.

In previous years, the prestigious award had gone to individual male and female athletes who have excelled in the annual amateur competition.

But in 2000, GC Games executive director Erik Widmark and his staff opted to give the two awards to the Tonto boys and girls team.

The reason officials decided to break with tradition and tap the local teams were partly due to the success of Tonto Apache teams in the games.

"Winning is important; they've won something like 100 medals over the past four years," Widmark said at an awards ceremony honor the teams. "But we also have a rather stringent criteria (for the honorees) which includes high character and morals."

As Athletes of the Year, the Tonto team, coached by Billy Joe Winchester, represented the amateur games at almost every ceremony and competition that year.

For those who wish to contribute to the successful tradition the Rim Country has enjoyed at the games, the opportunity awaits by simply picking up an entry book at Payson Arizona Public Service or Bashas'.

The books contain complete information of sports offered, sites, entry fees and rules and regulations.

More information is available at www.gcsg.org.

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