City tells track teams to play nice

Besnik Mece of the New Westminster Spartans says he has a plan that would bring the city
Besnik Mece of the New Westminster Spartans says he has a plan that would bring the city's three track and field clubs, along with the schools, together under one association, but getting everyone to agree to the plan has been difficult. The city recently told the clubs to work together or risk losing their funding from its amateur sports grants.

New Westminster’s three track and field clubs have been told by the city they’ll have to work together if they’re to expect any amateur sport grant funding in the future. Even then, the $3,000 allocated for 2014 falls short of the $19,249 total requested by the three organizations.

The money is to be used to buy equipment like high jump mats, timepieces and high hurdles, develop coaches or to implement programs that will attract more youth to the sport.

Diane Perry, the city’s manager of community development, said she’s been trying to get the three clubs to work together for years.

“New Westminster is not that big,” said Perry. “Most cities have one organization for each sport. We shouldn’t be supporting three separate clubs with separate equipment.”

In fact, last year the amateur sports fund committee that vets requests for funding from registered not-for-profit sports organizations told the three groups to submit their application jointly or they might not get any money at all.

Mayor Wayne Wright said at Monday’s city council meeting that it took “a lot of gumption” for the committee to take such a stand. He said the clubs should get together to “do what’s best for the kids.”

It’s those young athletes that are foremost in the thoughts of Don Benson, who formed the Royal City Track and Field Club in 1995 and then championed the creation of a more competitive club, the New West Spartans, in 2007, to ensure athletes of all capabilities could get access to coaching and equipment. The Spartans are led by Tatjana and Besnik Mece, champion athletes in their native Albania.

“There was a tug of war there,” said Benson of the split. “There was some hard feelings.”

The lanes at Mercer Stadium got even more crowded in 2011 when the Elite Track and Field Academy was formed under the guidance of former Bulgarian national hurdler Krassimir Velkov.

“It’s a very dicey situation with the three clubs,” said Perry.

Besnik Mece said he has a plan that would bring the three clubs together, along with New Westminster secondary school and the elementary schools, to create a program that could eventually lead to the development of Olympic-calibre athletes. But getting the parties together has been a challenge.

“We need to sit down,” said Mece. “We need to involve all of them to create a better vision.”

While the clubs co-operate on sharing equipment and access to the track, Mece said the athletes would benefit if they could work together, pushing each other to get better.

“Everybody is working at different gears,” said Mece. “Like a good engine, we need to put all the gears together.”

Benson couldn’t agree more.

“It seems a simple matter to sit down and agree on practice times and using the equipment,” he said. “So much of it falls to pride.”


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