By Dave Lazzarino, Edmonton Sun
The countdown to a summer of track and field in Edmonton is on and some took to Foote Field Friday to try out some of the events in anticipation of the big events.
"Track and field in Canada is a really big sport right now," said Canadian Olympic 800-metre runner Geoff Harris. "Relative to our size, we do extraordinary."
Harris finished 17th in the London Olympics and said awareness for the athletes on non-Olympic years is beginning to build in Edmonton, particularly as the National Track League (NTL)holding its Track Town Classic event in July at Foote Field.
"In cities like this it's growing," he said. "It's nice to see."
Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Hawn tried his hand at some of the events, including javelin and shot put, but he also came to hurl some federal dollars at the events.
Hawn announced $650,000 would be going towards two track meets in Edmonton, along with the $20 million dedicated to the Olympic Own the Podium campaign. The three Edmonton events are expected to inject more than $20 million to Alberta's economy with more than $15 million to be seen in the Edmonton and Capital Region.
"It's a great community event. Edmontonians have always responded to events like this," Hawn said. "These local events lead to the national events and lead to the international events. So they're all building blocks and it's really important that we start at this level because this is where our champions come from."
The Track Town Classic -- the largest event in the NTL circuit -- runs July 11-12, tucked between the Canadian Junior-Senior-Para championships at the beginning of July and the Panamerican Junior Championships at the end of the month.
Olympic hurdler Angela Whyte stressed the importance of fan support for the athletes, particularly those now vying for a few coveted spots on the national team going to the Rio Olympics in 2016.
"You don't understand how spectators, a crowd, just all the little things, how it can have a huge influence on how we perform," said Whyte. "We have what it takes but we've got to get the word out, we've got to get people there because it's those moments that get us going; when the stands are filled but there's complete silence and everybody's waiting and hoping."
All the track and field events will be held at the University of Alberta's Foote Field with more than 3,000 of the world's best athletes competing over nine days.
Tickets for the events can be found at tracktowncan.com.