Tribal Health holds youth Olympics

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LAKEPORT, Calif. (MCT) – The jingling sounds at the Lake County Fairgrounds on a triple-digit temperature Friday afternoon wasn’t Christmas sleigh bells. It was the sound of athletes in the seventh annual Lake County Tribal Health Youth Olympics showing the results of their hard work.

Children ages 5 through 16 from all six American Indian rancherias and colonies around Lake County participated in the events. Competitions included basketball, T-ball, softball throwing, 25-yard runs, backward 25-yard runs, sack races and tug-of-war. Coordinator Johnny Gonsales is a trainer and diabetes instructor at the Sutter Wellness Center. Gonsales said the purpose of the event is two-fold: to encourage unity among the county’s American Indian communities and to promote fitness.

“The reason we do this is because we want to stop Type 2 diabetes,” Gonsales said. “The message of this year’s event is just move it, and whatever you put in your body, be responsible.”

Gonsales said the athletes were encouraged to eat healthy food, drink water and avoid soda. Big Valley Rancheria member Gayle Smith, 13, won three gold medals for basketball, 25-yard dash and softball throw competitions for her age group.

Smith said her favorite part was basketball, but she competed in multiple events because she wanted to test her athletic and medal-winning mettle. The reason Big Valley Rancheria member Feather Morgan, 7, participated in the Olympic games was simple: she likes sports.

Her favorite part was the tug-of-war, because “we won the grown-ups.”

Approximately 200 athletes and spectators attended. The Lakeport Fire Protection District sent a ladder truck to the event and extended the ladder while children looked on. Smokey Bear and Chipper, the California Highway Patrol mascot, were also present.

(c) 2009, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.