Briefs: Boxing national championship scheduled+

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A number of athletes are now preparing for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, including some boxing hopefuls. Before they make it to the home of the first-ever Olympics, they must prove their mettle in a ring closer to home — at the 2001 Everlast U.S. Boxing Championships to be held in Colorado Springs this month.

More than 200 boxers are expected to put on the gloves at the 103rd national championship March 13-17. The first three days of the championship will take place at the U.S. Olympic Training Center with bouts at noon and 6 p.m. Semi-finals will be held at noon and 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 16 and finals will be at the Colorado Springs City Auditorium on March 17 at 6 p.m.

“This is the next generation coming in,” said Darryl Seibel, director of operations and strategic planning at the Colorado Springs Sports Corp.

The top four finishers advance to the U.S. Challenge on April 6 and 7. Held in Lake Placid, N.Y., it is a trials event for the World Championships and the Goodwill Games.

Nancy Hixson, director of business development for the Sports Corp., expects about 2,000 attendees this year at the finals. Nearly 1,500 general admission tickets will be sold for $3 apiece, and she said she hopes to sell 500 floor seats. Hixson doesn’t see these championships as a national event. Instead, she expects to draw a crowd from the Front Range communities, including a large number of Denver fans.

Celebrating its 103rd year in business, this is the 14th consecutive time the Everlast event has been held in our back yard. The former Broadmoor World Arena hosted the tournament for many years before it moved on to Fort Carson for two years, and then the City Auditorium six years ago.

“Historically, it (the championship) has been based here because USA Boxing is based here,” said Hixson. “It was a natural fit. It’s easier to put on an event in your own backyard than take it on the road.”

Some of these amateur boxers could join the ranks of previous Everlast winners who went on to win gold medals at the Olympics, such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Muhammad Ali, and Oscar De La Hoya.

Finals will be aired on ESPN2 at 11 p.m. on April 22.

Staying the course

The Colorado Springs Grand Prix of Running 2001 kicks off this year in style at the 18th annual 5K run on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17.

Held at Bancroft Park at Colorado Avenue and 24th Street in Old Colorado City, the race begins at 10 a.m. Runners can pre-register at the Runners Roost, 107 E. Bijou St. or register the day of the race between 9 and 10 a.m. The cost for pre-registered runners is $17 and $20 on race day.

Race founders Carol and John O’Donnell counted about 600 participants last year, including walkers. Because of potential accidents, they no longer allow participants to push baby-joggers but still expect nearly 700 entrants this year.

“(We) started it as a fun run to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and it’s built year after year,” said Carol O’Donnell. “Runners in town like to run in series.”

The race is one of six that make up the Grand Prix series. Approximately 38 percent of the race’s revenue covers expenses such as police security, t-shirts, prizes and insurance said John O’Donnell. The remaining proceeds are donated to cover parade expenses.

The race is the first of two parts of the day’s events. Following the race is a St. Patrick’s Day parade at noon. O’Donnell said he expects about 20,000 to 25,000 people to line the streets. A total of 66 plaques are given to first, second, and third-place winners in 11 age divisions for both men and women.

“It brings people who otherwise might not come to the historical district,” said O’Donnell.

The course begins on Colorado Avenue as runners head east to 11th Street. They then turn back on Colorado Avenue and run west to 27th Street where they turn around again and end the race where they began. Kids can participate in their own run at 11 a.m. for $5. The annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade follows at noon, beginning at 27th Street and ending at 17th Street.

“It’s just part of the parade,” said Carol O’Donnell. We try to make it a fun day.”

About 20 years ago, the national historical preservation trust came to the area and advocated a number of marketing tools, including hosting community events, saying they would help to revitalize historical districts and bring in more money to the local stores and surrounding community.

Because of this, the O’Donnells began this race and parade, as well as a Christmas parade in Old Colorado City, Pueblo and Boulder. Older neighborhoods are now hot spots for shopping, office space and dining, said John O’Donnell.

The average age of runners in this race is 27, he said. They tend to be higher-income professionals who are interested in investing money in running gear and a healthy way of life.

“At this time of the year, most retail is not in the mall,” he added. “Because ownership is multiple (in Old Colorado City), there is no effort to synchronize leases and no association-generated mechanism to collect marketing fees.”

During the 10- to 14-day advertising period before the race and parade last year, nearly $25,000 was spent by radio and television stations, O’Donnell noted, giving the Old Colorado City businesses free advertising.

Trading places

Just like trading baseball cards, the minor league Colorado Springs Sky Sox Baseball Club traded a couple of its assistant general managers recently.

Gabe Ross and Corey Wynn returned to the ball club after a one-year absence. Ross replaced Michael Hirsch, who returned home to the New York area. Ross was Hirsch’s assistant during the 1999 season. Ross worked for the Idaho Falls Padres last year but returned to Colorado Springs in early December.

The same held true for Wynn, who assisted Jake Pierson. Wynn, who worked for the University of Phoenix in the Springs, came back to the team on Nov. 1.