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Junior Olympians compete for medals in SE Queens

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A Junior Olympics stage, that is.

The first...

By Kathianne Boniello

For a few hours in the afternoon heat Saturday afternoon, the track, basketball and tennis courts of Jamaica’s Roy Wilkins Park were more than just neighborhood playgrounds — they were an Olympic stage.

A Junior Olympics stage, that is.

The first Southeast Queens Junior Olympics kicked off at the park with a parade of about 200 excited youngsters and several dignitaries down Merrick Boulevard and an opening ceremony at the Roy Wilkins Park stage.

Organizers Allan Pope and state Assemblyman Bill Scarborough (D-St. Albans) addressed the crowd as did the parade’s grand marshal, Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott. Walcott grew up in southeast Queens and now lives in Cambria Heights.

It took about a year of planning to get the ambitious project off the ground, Scarborough said. More than 1,500 youngsters were scheduled to compete in a variety of sports in several different locales throughout southeast Queens over the next week.

“It’s just a wonderful celebration of youth,” Scarborough said as the Junior Olympics began. “It provides a positive outlet for our young people. It simply gives people a chance to see what our kids are like each and every day.”

The Junior Olympics will recognize the top three athletes in each sport with medals. Sports include basketball, track and field, baseball, soccer, tennis, martial arts and swimming, with youths up to the 12th grade eligible to participate. A closing ceremony was scheduled for July 27 at 5 p.m.

Sites being used for events during the Junior Olympics include Roy Wilkins Park, St. Albans/Baisley Park, Montbellier Park and York College and Liberty Park.

Pope said he was inspired to start the Junior Olympics as a way of giving back to the southeast Queens community.

“I believe in this community,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of good kids.”

Walcott, once a child in southeast Queens, was in familiar surroundings for the opening ceremony.

“I used to play here before it was a park,” Walcott said of Roy Wilkins Park.

The deputy mayor praised the Junior Olympics.

“To me this is what community is all about: developing programs that benefit the youth,” he said.

Tennis instructor Bill Briggs, who for 30 years has overseen southeast Queens’ successful National Academy for Tennis and Youth Development, agreed.

“It brings the community together,” Briggs said.

The Junior Olympics will also give children in southeast Queens exposure to what Briggs called “nontraditi­onal” sports for the community, such as tennis, by not only focusing on popular sports like basketball.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:08 pm, October 10, 2011
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