MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) Since Thursday, Meridian High School has been playing host to the USATF Region 6 Junior Olympics Championships. Approximately 850 athletes through age 18 from across Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Louisiana made their way to Ray Stadium.
Meridian Mayor Percy Bland says the event’s impact on the local economy is huge.
“People called me yesterday and said they saw a lot of tags from out of town coming here,” Bland said. “Of course when that happens from a standpoint of how we pay our bills in the city of Meridian with tourism dollars, events like this really move us in that direction.”
Competing in the Region 6 Junior Olympics Championships is about more than battling to be the best in the region; it also presents the opportunity to compete at the national level. The top five finishers – male and female from each division – go on to compete in the USATF Hershey National Junior Olympic Championships in Sacramento later this month.
The chance to go to the Golden State is something Daniel Hill hopes to be part of as he looks to qualify in the 100-meter hurdles, 200-meter hurdles and long jump.
“I just started doing hurdles last year but I really got the hang of it so I just started doing them more but the first event I started doing was long jump,” he said. “I just want to be nationally recognized by many people. I just want to win.”
The opportunity to compete at the national level is exciting for both athletes and their families alike. For many, like Daniel and his father Demetrius, it is the result of years of hard work and never settling to be less than the best.
“To compete at that level for Junior Olympics that’s pretty big for a kid,” Hill said. “We talked about it but we never really thought about it until this year and it’s like, ‘You can do it’.”
While events like this provide a fun, few days for friends and family to come out and cheer on those participating, USATF Regional 6 Meet Director Phillip Trevis notes there are moving parts that go into making such event successful.
“It’s a lot of hard work behind the scenes,” said Trevis. “Again, it takes a lot of people to put this on. We have a good supporting cast from the city, parents, coaches from around, all the officials – I never could have done any of this without the officials and the key people from the national office as well.”
The USATF Region 6 Jr. Olympics Track & Field Championships conclude Sunday.