'Pumped' to participate

Jason Malloy
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Tanton brothers will be competing this week at national youth track meet

Matthew Tanton is "pumped" to compete on the national stage.

He will get that opportunity this weekend when he throws the discus at the 2012 Legion Canadian Youth Track and Field Championships.

"It's exciting and amazing," the 14-year-old Summerside native said Wednesday. "It's my first year so I am excited, but I'm also really nervous, since it's such a big competition."

The event is being held in Prince Edward Island for the first time in its 36-year history.

Canada Games Alumni Place, on the campus of UPEI, will host the three-day championships for athletes ranging in age from 12 to 17.

Tanton's brother Nicholas has been to three previous legion meets. He is looking forward to meeting other athletes from across the country and maybe a future Olympian.

"It would be cool to see somebody you competed against at the Olympics," he said.

Nicholas had a couple of top-10 finishes in his first year in Sherbrooke, Que., in 2009, but the past two years in Ottawa the competition has been tougher with more athletes competing.

His goal this year is to concentrate on his own performance.

"I can't worry about the other athletes and where they're at," he said. "I hope to run and jump personal bests."

There will be 820 athletes taking part, including 420 sponsored by the legion who will stay at the UPEIresidences. The remaining 400 are performance-qualified athletes.

The legion has been holding track and field competitions since the 1950s.

LeRoy Washburn competed at some of those early events and has since crisscrossed the country officiating and administering the games.

"You can name any little town in Canada and I know an athlete or an official from there," said the technical director for this year's event.

Some of the athletes who have competed have gone on to turn pro or compete in the Olympics. The names include hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, decathlete Mike Smith, sprinter Angela Bailey, shot putter Dylan Armstrong and P.E.I Olympians Jared Connaughton, Heather Moyse and David MacEachern.

"You equate them to the legion or you equate the legion to them," Washburn said.

The Oromocto, N.B., resident has officiated more than 30 international meets, including nine world championships, three Commonwealth Games and two Olympics (1976 in Montreal and 1996 in Atlanta).

Washburn said the legion event is the greatest program for athletes who want to compete at a high level of track and field.

"It's a miniature world championship," he said.

With the event making its first stop on the Island, local participants are hoping for encouragement from the stands.

"Hopefully, this year we'll have lots of people rooting for our team," Nicholas said.

At a glance

2012 Legion Canadian Youth Track and Field Championships

What - A national competition for athletes in under-16 and under-18 categories.

Where - Canada Games Alumni Place.

When - Competition starts Friday and continues through Sunday.

Cost - Daily admission is $10 and includes a program. Legion members, with legion cards, and people under 18 years old may enter for free.

Opening ceremonies: Friday at 7 p.m.

Did You Know? - The legion invests more than $500,000 annually to run the event.

Organizations: UPEIresidences

Geographic location: Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada Sherbrooke Ottawa Oromocto Montreal Atlanta

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