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Willy Davenport Olympian Track and Field Youth Clinic

Courtesy By: Oakland Tribune

Champions come work with youth Champions work with kids

WE'RE ONLY about halfway through the basketball season, so it seems a little early to be talking about track and field.

However, with the 20th annual Willie Davenport Olympian Track and Field Clinic coming up Feb.3 at James Logan High, it's pretty much unavoidable.

The clinic - named for the late great hurdler - is the brainchild of Logan coach Lee Webb, who continues to battle against dwindling numbers in the sport by trying to spark interest whenever he can. He holds plenty of clinics, but the Davenport clinic is the biggest.

Upward of 1,500 coaches and athletes will take part in the clinic that runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The long list of former Olympians who will attend and run clinics is like a Who's Who of the sport.

Among the Olympic champions are Dick Fosbury (high jump), Tommie Smith (200 meters), Mel Pender (sprints), Eddie Hart (sprints), Charlie Green (sprints), Mac Wilkins (discus), Billy Mills (10,000 meters), Edith McGuire (200 meters), Wyomia Tyus (100 meters) and Marilyn King (pentathlon).

It's a far cry from Webb's first Olympian clinic two decades ago.

That first year, we had four Olympians and about 50 people attended, Webb recalled. I did it because nobody was doing anything (to promote track and field). There were a lot of talkers out there, but not a lot of doers.

Clinic registration will run from 8-9 a.m., after which all of the Olympians will be introduced and activity groups formed. There will

e a question-and-answer session in the morning with members of the famed 1968 Olympic team.

Clinics will take place from 10 a.m.-noon and 1:15-3 p.m.

Webb said the Olympians really enjoy putting on this event.

The athletes who are older don't ask for a lot to come here, he said. Most of today's athletes say 'what can you give me for coming?' But these athletes enjoy getting together with their old friends, working with the kids and telling stories.

Putting this huge clinic together is practically a year-round job and doesn't really turn a profit, but Webb does it willingly to promote a sport that is losing more and more young athletes each year.

It's hard to get kids out because it's a lot of work, and the rewards don't come quick, Webb explained. You can go out and shoot a basketball, make it and get rewarded right away. But you can't just go out and run a hurdles race. In track and field, you might not get the rewards for awhile.

The clinic is actually part of what Webb calls Olympian Week. Some of the Olympians will be speaking at East Bay schools Jan.30-Feb.2, and the Willie Davenport Celebrity Golf tournament will be held Feb.2 at the Metropolitan Golf Links in Oakland.

The whole thing wraps up on Feb.3 with a formal dinner and the Evening of Champions (6:30-10 p.m.) at the new Union City Sports Center. The Olympians will mingle with many former great James Logan athletes and/or their families. Former Logan stars to be honored include Roy Williams (Dallas Cowboys), Donnie Spragen (Miami Dolphins), Nate Robinson (New York Knicks), Vickie Galindo (USA softball) and Kevin Craddock (owner of 25 high school hurdling records).

This was the vision when I first started doing this, Webb said. To have an Olympian Week, a golf tournament, the clinic and a nice dinner to inspire people to participate in the sport.

-Cost for the golf tournament is $150 per person and proceeds benefit Olympians in Need, Special Olympics and local track and field teams. Most foursomes will include a track and field celebrity. For more information, contact Vivian DeSano at (650) 438-3837.

-Registration for the Willie Davenport Track and Field Clinic is $20 per person ($10 for youth) and $350 for teams. For more information, call Webb at (510) 471-2520 (ext. 5113).

-Tickets to the Evening of Champions are $60 per person or $600 per table. An Olympian or elite athlete will be seated at each table. For more information, call Ron Mickle at (408) 229-8854.

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