International track meet headed to Joplin

Staff reports

An impressive lineup of athletes will represent Great Britain when veteran (called masters in Great Britain) athletes compete in Joplin on June 21 and 22.

Most of these athletes, ranging in age from early 40s to 80s, will be staying with families in Neosho while they compete at the Missouri Southern State University stadium.

Tom Thorne, a local athlete who is hosting the event, said there are more than 50 entrants, many from foreign countries as well as from across the United States.

“We’ve got several from Canada, one from Ireland, several from England, three coming in from Hawaii, one from either Arizona or New Mexico, one from Florida, one from Iowa and several from Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Georgia and North Carolina. They’re here from all over the country,” he said.

The event is held every two years, with England alternating with Neosho and Southwest Missouri.

“We went over there in ’94, ’98, ’02 and ’06, and hosted it in ’96 and 2000,” said Thorne. “In 2004, we held it in Carthage because of the renovations going on to the Neosho High School track, and this year, we were invited to use Missouri Southern’s track.”

Many of those from foreign countries will be staying in Neosho, Thorne added.

Currently, 23 athletes have made arrangements to stay with families in the Flowerbox City. Some of these athletes have been to Neosho and Southwest Missouri several times.

“A lot of them have arranged to stay with people they’ve stayed with before,” he said.

“And the biggest majority of the Brits fly in to different parts of the country — to Tulsa, Kansas City, St. Louis and Chicago — and then drive down, they’re so familiar with the place.”

Some of those carrying the banner for the British team will include Bruce and Jackie Charles. Bruce Charles, along with Thorne, has competed in each of these Great Britain/USA events. Bruce Charles is a frequent medalist in Combined Events in the United Kingdom and was a bronze medalist in the 2003 European Indoors Masters Pentathlon.

Jackie Charles is the current European Indoor Pentathlon Champion and, in 2007, was the silver medalist in the triple jump in the World Masters Championships in Italy. She also took the bronze medal in the Heptathlon.

Recently she took silver in the World Indoor Masters Championships in France, taking the silver in Pentathlon and in triple jump and bronzes in the 60-meter hurdles and the long jump.

Alastair Duncan will also compete in Joplin. In the 2007 BMAF Indoor Pentathlon, he has won the gold medal in the decathlon, the silver medal in Pentathlon, and took bronzes in the 60-meter hurdles long jump.

Hazel Baker is the current British champion at Heptathlon, the current British champion in the women’s (age 45 group) at the Indoor Pentathlon. She was fourth in her age group last year in Heptathlon at the World Championships in Riccione, Italy. She also holds the silver medal in Pentathlon from the last European Championships held in Poznam, Poland.

But it won’t be all work while the athletes are here, Thorne said. Several activities are on tap, including a pasta dinner after the meet June 21, put on by the Newcomer’s Club. Music will top off the evening, as a Canadian athlete, two or three from the United Kingdom and one from Webb City will join together on guitars and voices.

“The Canadian will be singing a song he wrote several years ago called ‘Decathlon Blues,’ ” Thorne said. “The rest will get together, and it will be a real hootenanny.”

Other activities include a pizza dinner after competition June 22, a recovery day on June 23, and a barbecue event with games at Neosho’s Rainbow Park.

“We’re excited,” said Thorne. “Good friendships have been made.”

Everyone is invited and encouraged to attend the competition, which will be in the stadium at Missouri Southern State College on June 21 and 22. There is no charge for attendance and concessions will be provided.

Anyone who would like to volunteer to help with the event, or for more information, may contact Thorne at 451-7417.

Neosho Daily News