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  • Chris Crewell / Bee file, 2000

    Marion Jones competes in the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials at Sacramento State. She also participated in the Golden West Invitational in Sacramento.

  • Brian Baer / Bee file, 2012

    Shelbi Vaughan of Mansfield, Texas, sets a national high school girls discus throw record at last year's Golden West Invitational at Folsom High School.

High-profile track meets continue to leave Sacramento

Published: Sunday, Jun. 9, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013 - 12:00 pm

Not long ago, Sacramento was a track and field mecca.

Sacramento State hosted the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Trials and the 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007 NCAA Track and Field Championships.

The CIF State Championships were held at Sacramento City College's Hughes Stadium in 2001, 2004, 2005 and 2007.

Each June, the Golden West Invitational, founded in Los Angeles in 1960 but a Sacramento staple for nearly 50 years, featured some of the nation's top high school athletes, including Evelyn Ashford, Bob Beamon, Marion Jones, Steve Prefontaine, Jim Ryun, Tommy Smith, Dwight Stones, Stacy Dragila, Terry Bradshaw, Michael Carter, Bob Hayes and James Lofton.

Those heady days are gone – at least for now.

With the 54th annual Golden West Invitational at Cal's Edwards Stadium today, major track and field events have all but disappeared from the area.

"We definitely need to re-energize things," said Jerry Colman, whose mid-spring Sacramento Meet of Champions is now the area's biggest prep track invitational of the season. "The competition has gotten a lot more intense."

The Golden West once was considered the top high school track meet in the country, mostly because of the talented athletes it attracted.

But the rise in June meets with deeper pockets and an ongoing struggle to find sponsorship money after adidas bowed out several years ago led to the venue change this year, former meet director John Mansoor said.

"Kids around the country used to anxiously wait to get an invitation to this meet," said Mansoor, the executive director of USA Track & Field's Pacific Association. "For many years, it was only for the top eight seniors in (each event) in the country."

Although participation has waned, the event still attracts some top competitors. Last year at Folsom High School, Shelbi Vaughan of Mansfield, Texas, now at Texas A&M, set a national girls high school discus record.

Mansoor hopes the move to Cal and a new, business-savvy director – former Cal triple jumper and Golden West participant Dmitry Piterman – will attract more sponsorships and greater participation.

Though the Golden West is gone, Mansoor said he is determined to bring the CIF State Championships back to Sacramento.

Since 2009, the event has been held at 10,000-seat Buchanan High School in Clovis, and CIF officials have raved about the venue, the hundreds of volunteers and the central location within the state.

"What's unique about Clovis is the huge community support," said Ron Nocetti, the CIF associate executive director. "Some 400 volunteers work the meet, and it's been amazing to see what they can do. It saves us quite a bit in expenses."

The 2014 state meet will be the last under the three-year contract, and Nocetti said bidding for a new deal will begin in the fall.

Before going to Clovis, the state meet rotated for 12 years between Cerritos College in Norwalk and Hughes Stadium after being at Cerritos College from 1988 to 1996.

The last state track meet at Hughes Stadium in 2007 drew more than 20,000 spectators over two nights and was called the best meet in 26 years by Rich Gonzalez of PrepCalTrack.com.

"I think it's possible for Sacramento to get back into a rotation," Mansoor said. "Sacramento is still a great track town. We have the right kind of weather that suits both sprinters and distance runners. The organization is all here, too."

Mansoor thinks a revamped Sacramento Sports Commission, under new director Mike Sophia, will work closer with the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau to bring the state meet and other events to the area.

Mansoor agrees Sacramento doesn't have a high school venue big enough to host the state meet – a CIF preference – and the two best facilities, Sacramento State and Hughes Stadium, have drawbacks.

Sacramento State has an eight-lane track, and the CIF prefers nine lanes, though Nocetti said that's not necessarily a deal-breaker. And at Hughes Stadium, the jumps and pole vault area are partially obscured from many viewers, Mansoor said. The pits were moved off the field area inside the track to accommodate a wider field for soccer.

That isn't necessarily a deal-breaker, either, Nocetti said.

And even though Clovis officials feel confident they can retain the meet – a headline in the Fresno Bee on June 2 said "Meet appears set for Clovis through '17" – Nocetti said the CIF encourages more bids.

"I think there are people out there who make the assumption we're not going to move," Nocetti said of established events such as the state basketball finals, which have been at Sleep Train Arena 16 of the last 18 years. "You'd be surprised how many times we only get two or three bids for a huge event. We'd love to have more bids."

Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Bill Paterson



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