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RECREATION : Accent Is on Fun at All-Comers Meets

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Robert Bivins heads for Birmingham High on Wednesday nights to escape the pressures of the business world.

“Everything is real here,” said the 44-year-old Bivins, a computer designer from Ontario. “There is no more politicking.”

Bivins is one of several hundred athletes who gather at the Van Nuys school to compete in all-comers track meets. Individuals from all walks of life come together to run or jump and enjoy some friendly competition.

“We get an interesting cross-section--all weights, shapes and sizes,” said Pete Anderson, field coordinator of the meet. “It is mainly an opportunity to participate in track and field in an informal setting. It’s not super-competitive or dog-eat-dog. The main purpose is to have fun and compete against yourself.”

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This year the program, which is sponsored by the Youth Services Section of the Los Angeles Unified School District, will celebrate its 30th anniversary. The meets are held at Los Angeles Southwest College on Tuesdays, Bell High on Thursdays and Santa Monica College on Fridays.

Bivins, who has written a number of articles on sports medicine, has competed at the meets since the ‘60s. He believes that the meets make him more credible as a writer.

“If I am actually doing the event it makes me more credible as a person who understands what an athlete goes through,” he said.

Although the meets have attracted their share of professional athletes--Los Angeles Raider Willie Gault set an all-comers record in the open section of the 100 meters last year--most of the competitors are amateurs.

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Bob Perry, an Encino resident, has been competing at the meets since the ‘70s. Although he doesn’t consider himself competitive, the 60-year old carpenter enjoys the meets.

“I look forward to coming back every year,” Perry said.

Fred Alexander, 35, has competed at the meets for four years.

“I ran track at Washington State and in high school,” said Alexander, a Los Angeles police officer from Inglewood. “So I just do it for fun and to stay in shape.”

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Troy Kuretich, of Sylmar, a four-time All-American in track at Cal Lutheran, said he competes at the meets for self-satisfaction.

“Once a track athlete, always a track athlete,” Kuretich said.

Marrica Pichaikul, a 12 year-old student at Sepulveda Junior High, goes to the meets to socialize.

“It’s fun and you get to meet new friends,” said Pichaikul. “It also helps you to stay in shape.”

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Pichaikul and her 10 year-old brother Nat, who have been competing in the youth division for three years, are part of a growing number of children participating at the meets.

“On an average we have a couple of hundred kids (a night),” said Blair Fictum, a referee who has been with the program for 20 years.

Anderson, the field coordinator, said the the increase can be credited to the 1984 Olympics.

“Since the Olympics, the youth division has expanded,” Anderson said. “Each year we see more and more youths getting involved.”

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Another reason for the increase is the number of private clubs that compete.

Marshall Barshay, president of the Valley Raiders track club in Van Nuys, enters 15 to 20 children in the meet each week.

“Track doesn’t get that much exposure, but it’s getting bigger and bigger,” Barshay said. “It’s an individual thing, so they (the children) don’t have to depend on the team.”

Barshay said that the competition helps to develop the children mentally and physically.

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“If they run track they can participate in any sport because speed is needed in any sport,” Barshay said.

And only the desire to compete--against others or against a personal standard--is needed to enjoy the all-comers meets.


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