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New York City looks for gold at Empire State Games

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The games' organizers expect the publicity surrounding next month's Olympics to trickle down to the ticket windows at Binghamton University, where fans not interested in flying to Greece will hop into their cars and drive to watch 6,000 athletes compete in 28 different events as diverse as archery and canoeing and basketball and boxing.

"This is a great place to watch terrific athletes compete against each other," said Ashley Adriance, program coordinator for the Empire State Games. "This is a showcase for those athletes. We had more than 25,000 athletes try out and have had previous participants like the basketball player Sue Bird go on to perform in the Olympics. It's a great place for kids to get noticed and to advance their careers."

Last year New York City, competing against five other regions, won six gold medals, good enough for fourth place in the team competition. Since 1978, when the Empire Games began at Old Archbold Stadium on the Campus of Syracuse University, New York City has won 71 gold medals.

The Western Region has won 159 gold medals to lead all regions. The competition will be broken down into three age divisions: the Scholastic division, for high school kids in grades nine, 10 and 11; the Open division for high school seniors and up; and the Master's division for 18-year-olds and up.

Queens will have too many athletes to count competing to improve New York City's image as an athletic power. St. John's Daryll Hill is playing basketball for New York City. Ozone Park's Gabriel Acosta and Flushing's Orlando DeJesus in baseball. Joselito Collado will try to win gold in boxing; Townsend Harris' Rosalind Adams, the PSAL record-holder in the race-walk, is trying to do the same in the 10K race-walk.

In bowling, Jason Robinson is competing in the open mens' singles and Julian Bednarek could possibly come home with three gold medals from events in the canoe competition. Hugo Salazar Jr. will try to do the same in diving and Jose Collado will try to win one medal in cycling. Marina Kruglova made the cut in fencing and Sabrina Jennings in gymnastics.

New York isn't the only state to hold games like these, but it was the first and remains a product of the Department of Parks and Recreation and a magnet for sponsors to show off their wears.

Reach reporter Mitch Abramson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

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