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Crown Brings 'Softball Nation' Together

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By Earl Heath –

The Black Voice News takes you to Loveland,Colorado where its five-thirty a.m. and the breakfast room at the Holiday Inn Express is filled with a group of fourteen year-olds a few parents and coaches. They are team Kolohe. (which means rascals).Their home is Ewa Beach Hawaii located on the island of Oahu. They are part of Triple Crown Sports 160 plus team Jr. Sparkler tournament.

“Its some of the girls first time off the island,” said Dawn Akioa. ”They are all having fun and enjoying themselves.”

A week earlier Kolohe finished ninth in the forty team Colorado Classic; also put on by Triple Crown Sports. They are a team unified as they eat laugh and share their adventure as a whole.

Southern California’s Rynell Thomas swings a mean stick for the Batbusters but her dreams show something different. “I want to get in to Law Enforcement,” said the 12 year old. Softball helps her get her focus on life.

Robert Ferguson drove his Minnesota Renagade team fifteen hours to take part in the tournament. “I never realized how long Nebraska was,“ said Ferguson jokingly.

“We has to gas up there ten times. “

Coach Mike Moore brought his Blue Angel team from North Haven, Mississippi a town a few miles south of West Memphis Arkansas.

Team Pegasus of Salt Lake boasted of the most passionate coaches in the game. The forty something Mary Kay sprinted from the dugout to and from her third base coaches box every inning. Her team would follow with the same type of energy. The Victoria Devils 14U team had a contingent of about twenty- five. They made the trek from Vancouver Island British, Columbia.

They began their preparation in October of 2010.

Practicing indoors due to weather restraints. It was a hard working team that was enthusiastic and also very grateful to be here. It took various fundraising efforts and some willing parents to get the group here.

“They love playing teams from America,” said head coach Brian Wallace. “The teams here are very competitive and challenging.“

The team was impressed with number of fields in the Loveland, Denver area and how well they were kept up. Tourney sites consisted of more than sixty fields.

Mother nature also was a fore-front, temperatures reached 90 plus daily. “We don’t get this much heat at home, The temperature doesn’t get much more than eighty degrees where were from.” July 1st is Canada’s Independence Day. Before their game on this date the players lined up along the first base line and sang O Canada.

The tourney came to an end for the Devils on the final Saturday. Trailing 8-1 in the final frame they rallied back to just fall 8-7. It didn’t appear to harm the spirits. “I’m proud of each and everyone of you,” Wallace told his team after the game.

“You brought something with you. Each and every umpire said it was a pleasure when you were on the field.”

With Triple Crown Sports putting on the regular Sparkler and the having some 400 plus teams in the Denver, Westminster area there were over 560 teams gathered for the week.

From Victoria British Columbia to North Haven, Mississippi, from the woods of Minnesota to the to the plains of Missouri. The Island of Hawaii and from the desert to the sea in Southern California.

We can all learn one thing The ‘softball nation’ is bigger than all of us. Tomorrow’s Kanora Posey’s, Monica Abbots’, Jenny Finches, Natasha Watley’s are beginning to grow. The seeds have been planted. It is truly “one nation under a groove.”

Dix Eager for Chance to Bring Down Bolt at World Championships

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(Reuters) - Olympic double bronze medalist Walter Dix does not buy the talk that America, without Tyson Gay, will have no answer for Jamaica's Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell at next month's world championships.

U.S. championship victories at 100 and 200 meters have convinced the Floridian he can be a shock factor in the short race and medal in the longer run as well at the August 27-September 4 world championships in South Korea.

"I love to prove people wrong," Dix, who will compete in Canada's National Track League meeting in Toronto on Wednesday, told Reuters via telephone.

World record holder Bolt recently said he believed without world silver medalist Gay, who underwent hip surgery last week, his biggest challengers in South Korea would be his Jamaican team mates and fellow Caribbean sprinters.

"I have always had the confidence I can beat those guys," said Dix, who won the U.S. championships in respectable but not Bolt-like times. "I just haven't been able to stay healthy since 2007. This is the first year I am doing that."

The improved health and good results so far have sparked thoughts that Bolt could be beaten in Daegu, which is one reason Dix is competing in Toronto and ran on Sunday in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The American needs to fine-tune his start and the early portions of his 100 meters if he is to have a chance against Bolt in the world championships.

"If I can just come out of the blocks next to him, if I can be with him or a step ahead at 40 meters, I think it is a wrap," Dix said of his plan to dethrone Bolt.

"I don't see myself losing to him. I ran down Asafa a couple of times (in races) and I think Bolt and I have about the same top-end speed ... I don't think he is going to pull away from me too much."

The ever-hopeful Dix may need a refresher course in events of the 2008 Olympics, where the lanky Bolt was untouchable in Beijing once he unfurled his long stride pattern, romping to world records in both the 100 and 200.

EXTREMELY PROUD

Dix claimed bronze in the 100 and was elevated to bronze in the 200 after two athletes who finished ahead of him were disqualified.

Bolt dropped his world records to 9.58 seconds in the 100 and 19.19 seconds in the 200 at the 2009 world championships. Dix has bests of 9.88 (in 2010) and 19.69 (in 2007).

Yet, Dix insisted he could run with Bolt and Powell.

"When I saw 9.5. and 9.6 (for Bolt), I believed I could run 9.7 or 9.6," he said, "and I always thought I was going to run 19.3 (in the 200)."

An extremely proud individual who dominated U.S. collegiate sprinting in the mid 2000s, Dix missed the 2009 world championships with a pulled hamstring.

"That injury really set me back," the 25-year-old said. "It took me out of the picture."

Getting back in has proved difficult even with his U.S. sprint double.

"They (the media) are still saying Usain this and Asafa that," Dix said. "It's everybody under the sun (but me) ... But I appreciate that. It just makes me want to work harder."

Felix Selected for Both Initial U.S. Relay Pools

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(Reuters) - Three times world 200 meters champion Allyson Felix could run in as many as four events at August's world championships, according to the relay pools released by USA Track & Field (USATF) on Tuesday.

The California sprinter, already thinking about a rare 200 metres/400 meters individual double, was named to initial U.S. women's world championship pools for both the 4x100 and 4x400 meters relays.

If selected for both relays, Felix would have a chance to duplicate her 2007 world championship success when she won golds in both relays and the 200 meters.

She indicated recently she would like to try both relays along with one or two individual events at the August 27-September 4 world championships in Daegu, South Korea.

Initial pools for the men's 4x100 meters relay and the men's and women's 4x400 also were announced by USATF.

Absent are former world double sprint champion Tyson Gay from the men's 4x100 pool and reigning Olympic and world champion LaShawn Merritt from the 4x400.

Gay pulled out of the June 24 U.S. championships men's 100 semi-finals with a hip injury and the relay was his final chance to compete in this year's worlds.

Merritt, who completes a 21-month doping suspension on July 27, could be added later, a USATF spokeswoman said.

Although he did not run in the U.S. world trials last month, Merritt was given a spot on the U.S. team roster last week as the reigning world 400 meters champion. All roster members are eligible for relay spots.

Merritt's selection likely will depend on his fitness after he becomes eligible. He has run on the last three U.S. 4x400 relay teams to win gold medals at global competitions.

The United States has until August 8 to finalize its championship roster, including naming six athletes to each relay pool.

Olympic Champ LaShawn Merritt Cleared for World Championshipss

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(Reuters) - Disgraced Olympic and world 400 meters champion LaShawn Merritt has been cleared to compete in August's world championships, USA Track & Field (USATF) said on Tuesday.

Merritt needed an exception to USATF team policy to claim a wild-card berth in the world championships as the reigning champion.

U.S. team policy requires athletes to compete in its trials, which were held last weekend, to be eligible for world championships but Merritt was unable to because his 21-month doping suspension does not expire until July 27.

USATF's board granted an exception since he would be eligible for competition a month ahead of the world championships.

WNBA Celebrates the Past, Looks Forward

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After struggling for 15 Years the League’s future is still unclear

By Gary Montgomery, BVN Staff –

The Sacramento Kings of the NBA are hoping to have a place to play─ when the labor dispute is resolved. The ultra rich and famous Maloof Brothers, owners of the Kings have jettisoned a huge chuck of their once numerous assets to hold on to the team. The city of Sacramento has reached into its legal bag of tricks to keep them from leaving town and stiffing the city with a million dollar plus tab.

Frank McCourt, owner of the Los Angeles is Dodgers finds himself battling insolvency and needing an unlikely miracle after burning through millions and falling out of favor with the league. With an impending payroll due in just under two weeks, League commissioner Bud Selig has signaled that he will take control of the team if McCord falters.

The NFL is locked in a well publicized fight that threatens to wipe out the upcoming season for the nation’s most popular sport.

Owner’s say they desperately need to reel in their expenses and players say they can’t do it on their backs. Any number of sports teams are struggl ing and have nearly unsolvable problems.

Nearly every American is seeing neighbors and friends losing their jobs and struggling to hold on to their homes. These are indeed very difficult times all over the nation’s landscape.

It is in these times, that the fifteen year old WNBA finds itself growing up. At the tender age of 15, most find themselves learning and understanding the concepts necessary to move into adulthood.

Yet, the WNBA at 15 faces many of the same financial pressures that it faced at its beginning through no fault of its own.

The WNBA has a good league, with knowledgeable rabid fans, many as passionate about their game as any in sports. The league is currently loaded with the best group of young stars as at any time in its history.

The current WNBA visibly has everything necessary to be successful.

But, looks don’t tell the complete story. Owned by the NBA, the league has treaded water since the end of the ownership agreement in 2007.

When primary owners started to depart, leading to the demise of the Houston Comets and later the Sacramento Monarchs, many thought this was the end. But, the league responded by shuffling some teams and moving forward.

This is the plight of the current WNBA. Caught in an economic conundrum that is threatening its existence although the league itself has seeming done everything right.

Tuesday evening’s contest between the Los Angeles Sparks and the New York Liberty was set for June 21st to commemorate the WNBA’s inaugural contest between those same two teams on the exact same date 15 years earlier.

With 10,389 fans in attendance on a Tuesday evening in Los Angeles is indicative of a strong following by any measure.

Fifteen years ago Lisa Leslie and Kim Hampton tipped the ball to begin what is now the most successful Women’s Basketball League ever, and yet the league finds itself unsure of its future. We can only hope their success can continue.

G. Montgomery can be reached at sports@blackvoicenews.com

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