For the last forty years the Royal Canadian Legion has been providing youth with a platform to excel in athletics with the annual Legion National Youth Track & Field Championships. This year’s Championships were held from Aug. 5 to Aug. 7.
Now a well recognized national event for track & field, the Legion National Youth Track & Field Championships were established by a group of Second World War veterans who wanted to give children and grandchildren of Legion members to chance to increase physical fitness. Ten years ago the championships were opened to all athletes from all across the country.
“It’s a tremendous event. Kids from all walks of Canada participate, every province,” said Dominion President, David Flannigan.
This year’s event was attended by more than 900 athletes from across the country, 326 sponsored by the Legion and 619 open athletes.
Nine records were broken this year at the fortieth anniversary of the championships, held in Ste Therese/Blainville, Quebec.
Youth between the ages of 14 and 17 are eligible to take part.
“Once they come at 14 they stay and come every year and they’re very sad to leave when they’re 18,” said Flannigan.
Athletes are sponsored by local Legions at no cost to the youth, making the event a significant one in the lives of many who have come from less fortunate backgrounds, some of whom have gone on to compete in international events and the Olympics.
“This is for whoever wants to participate and compete, if they reach the level they don’t need one penny to attend this,” stated Flannigan.
The Championships are steeped in traditions including the banquet at the close of the events. During the banquet an athlete is nominated from each province to speak on behalf of its other athletes.
“You would not believe the fabulous presentations those kids made and their appreciation of being able to come and represent their province and meet all these friends from all over Canada…it’ll melt your heart just to listen to those kids,” recalled Flannigan.
An important figure throughout the years for many of the athletes passing through has been LeRoy Washburn who has attended 38 Legion championships and attended this year’s as well, at the age of 83. He has performed a multitude of tasks including coaching and refereeing.
“He’s an inspiration to all the children. He’s been a coach and a referee. He’s our pride and joy,” stated Flannigan.
The championships are held in different cities across the country. Next year’s event will be in Brandon, Manitoba.
“We go from province to province so each province can show what they feel is their greatest value in Canada. It’s very educational and physical,” noted Flannigan.
For more information about the Legion Youth National Track and Field Championships visit the Legion’s website