More than 100 world-class athletes, including about 30 Olympians, will compete Sunday in the Irvine Elite track meet, beginning at 3:30 p.m. at UC Irvine.
The meet, sanctioned by The Athletics Congress, will feature the largest collection of world-class track and field talent ever gathered for an Orange County competition.
Some of the top entrants include Roger Kingdom, the two-time defending Olympic gold medalist in the 110-meter high hurdles; Evelyn Ashford, a three-time Olympian in the 100-meter dash and gold medalist in that event in 1984; Danny Harris, silver medalist in the 400-meter hurdles in 1984, and two-time Olympian Julius Kariuki of Kenya, the gold medalist in the steeplechase at the Seoul Olympics.
Three-time Olympian Edwin Moses, a double gold medalist in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles is, along with UC Irvine Coach Danny Williams, one of the meet’s chief promoters.
According to Moses, the meet is the first of what is hoped to be a series of track and field invitationals that will establish the sport as a major spectator attraction in the United States. A second Elite meet is scheduled for June 10 at Tucson, and Williams said he hopes to expand the series.
“Eventually, we want to include Atlanta and probably another city on that side of the country,” Williams said. “Our long-range goal is five cities.”
Moses, 33, and a Newport Beach resident, said he is dedicated to promoting the meet in hopes of creating enough interest to keep top track stars competing within the United States. Currently, many of the nation’s top track and field stars travel outside the United States, primarily to Europe, where summer racing circuits offer large, enthusiastic crowds and substantial appearance fees.
In the United States, track and field’s governing body, The Athletics Congress or TAC, allows athletes to accept such fees as long as the money is routed through a TAC-certified trust fund, which athletes are allowed to draw from for training and living expenses.
Moses said the athletes competing Sunday are doing so--this year--without any financial gain.
“The athletes will be passing up a payday by coming to this meet,” Moses said. “I think that shows their dedication to making this work. . . . Eventually, as the meet develops and grows, we’d have to consider (offering appearance money).”
Moses, who has postponed his own competition until later this summer to work on gaining a master’s in business administration at Pepperdine University, said he and Williams are working on gaining major sponsorship and television coverage for next year’s meet.
With that, and gate receipts--tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children 12 and younger and senior citizens--they hope to gain enough funds to attract even more top athletes.
“We have the best track and field athletes in the world here in the United States, but we’ve never really concentrated on (promoting and marketing) it as a major sport here in this country,” he said.
Moses and Williams hope to fill the 2,500-seat stadium Sunday and eventually draw at least double that.
“The caliber of athletes that are here are basically the same as the Olympic team,” Williams said. “It’ll be kind of a mini-Olympics out there Sunday. We’re trying to create a family atmosphere.”
To enhance spectator interest and because the United States is strong in the sprints, Williams said they are holding races of no more than 800 meters.