Thanks to his efforts and some integral partnerships, he’ll get a glimpse next week of what that could look like.
Bridges, the head track and field coach at Rome High School, is helping bring the USA Track and Field Region 4 Junior Olympic Championships to Rome next week, July 5-8.
The event will include some of the top young track and field athletes from Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, ages 6 to 19, competing in a variety of events from the common 100-meter dash to the combined events like the decathlon.
“There is something for everybody. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re not a runner or don’t think you can do any of this,” Bridges said. “Getting folks involved and finding their way is what we’re about. It’s how it starts. And we hope we can grow it here.”
Bridges and representatives from Rome City Schools met at Barron Stadium on Tuesday with Charles Muhammad, Youth Athletic Committee Chairman for USATF Georgia, and Arlena Epps, secretary for USATF Georgia.
The West Third Street facility will be the central hub of activity over the four days of the meet, while events like the discus and shot put will take place at the Rome Throws Center on Riverside Parkway.
While the focus of the meeting was the logistics of hosting an event expected to bring in more than 5,000 people, Bridges was quick to point out that Rome is a perfect place to have it and that it could be a jump off for starting a youth track and field club in Rome.
“I think there are a lot of kids who can benefit from this and be introduced to new activities and opportunities,” Bridges said. “It’s about doing something for the kids in the community.”
The meet is typically held in Metro Atlanta, but when construction at the usual site forced USATF Georgia to look elsewhere, Muhammad said the road eventually led to Bridges.
“We liked the look and feel of Barron Stadium,” he said. “It’s more track friendly and spectator friendly than you find at other stadiums. And being right next to downtown, with the river walk and hotels, it made it appealing.”
Muhammad said there are certain challenges they are planning to work through, such as parking near the stadium, but that is something they face at every venue they hold a meet at in Georgia.
“As far as what we need it to be, and what we want to do, Barron has everything we want,” he said.
Each state’s association holds its own championships to determine the top 12 competitors in each event and age division, who then qualify for the region championships.
The top five athletes in most events at region then qualify for the National Junior Olympic Championships from July 23-29 at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, North Carolina.