By Theresa Harrington
The Concord City Council got a surprise visit from athletes who attend city high schools on Tuesday, challenging the elected leaders to join council members of neighboring cities in drumming up participation for a 5k run Oct. 10 to support Mt. Diablo district sports.
Council members responded positively, identifying students by their mascots.
“Is this where I get to say, ‘Go, Minutemen?’” said Councilwoman Laura Hoffmeister, referring to Concord High, her alma mater.
“It looks like there’s some Eagles here,” said Mayor Guy Bjerke, regarding Clayton Valley High students. “I don’t see any Warriors.”
Alas, no Ygnacio Valley High students were in the house.
“It’s too hot,” quipped Councilwoman Helen Allen.
“And we’ve got some from Mt. Diablo High,” Hoffmeister noted.
“Red Devils,” said Councilman Bill Shin, knowingly.
Councilman Mark Petersen, whose daughters attend Northgate High in Walnut Creek, didn’t comment.
“As you can tell,” Bjerke said, “certain members of the council attended different high schools.”
After hearing that elected officials from Pleasant Hill, Clayton and Walnut Creek were also challenged to participate, Bjerke and his fellow councilmembers showed their fighting spirit.
“If Mayor (Karen) Mitchoff and Mayor (Sue) Rainey can participate, then I surely can participate,” said Bjerke, referring to the leaders of Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek.
“We accept the challenge and we’ll try to get as many employees out there as possible,” Bjerke said.
Shinn kept his comments short.
“Go Red Devils,” he said quietly. Then louder: “And one more time, Go Red Devils!”
City councils in Clayton and Pleasant Hill have also responded enthusiastically, said Marci Finley, who is coordinating the event for the United Mt. Diablo Athletic Foundation. A representative from Northgate High sent an e-mail to the Walnut Creek City Council, she added.
The foundation is trying to raise $1.2 million to keep sports alive in the district, after trustees cut funding due to state budget cuts. Although sign-ups have been steady, sponsorships this year are far below those from last year, when the shock of losing sports funding first hit the community, Finley said.
Outside the Concord council meeting, students were excited about the reaction they received. They told me why sports are so important to them.
“I think it’s important because it keeps trouble-makers out of trouble and it just shows you how to have discipline in life,” said 16-year-old Diquan Madison, captain of the Mt. Diablo High football team. A running back and safety, he said he hopes to earn an athletic scholarship to San Francisco State University.
Raheem Blackmon, 17, participates in football and track at Mt. Diablo High.
“Coaches are like a parent to us and we’re like a family,” he said. “There’s not a lot of us on the team, but we stick together.
Like Diquan, he’s hoping sports will lead to a college scholarship at UCLA in track and field. Raheem said he is captain of the track team and he was the North Coast Section champion last year in 300-meter hurdles and 110-meter hurdles.
Red Devil football player Arturo Castaneda, 17, has set his sights on playing for San Francisco State University after he graduates.
“My whole life revolves around sports,” he said. “It gives me a reason to get up in the morning, but it also keeps me disciplined in school. One of the reasons to go to school is to improve myself as an athlete and a student and to have a way out to go to college.”
Rookie Quincey “Tech” Smith, 16, said Mt. Diablo High School sports provide him with a way to express his talents, which are running and agility. He participates in football, basketball, baseball and wrestling and is eyeing Tuskegee or San Francisco State universities.
“It’s one of the funnest ways to get into college, especially when you’re doing something you love,” he said. “I don’t get tired.”
Clayton Valley High athletes were proudly carrying the trophy they won for signing up the most 5k race participants last year: 608. This year, they’re trying to match or beat that number so they can hang onto their coveted prize.
“Other schools are trying to get it, but we’re hoping to keep it,” said Alex Tate, 16, who plays soccer and runs cross-country and track at Clayton Valley.
Ben Linzey, 13, runs cross-country and plans to participate in soccer and track and field at Clayton Valley. He said he’s betting his school will be able to attract more runners in the race this year.
Sports are important to freshman Kyle Metz, 14, who runs cross-country at Clayton Valley and plans to play soccer.
“It just gives you something to do besides homework” he said. “It keeps us active.”
Austin Woods, a 17-year-old Clayton Valley cross-country runner and volleyball player, said athlete contributions to sports have increased since trustees cut funding.
“Before, we just had to pay for buses,” he said. “Now, we have to make more contributions. It’s kind of hard to keep doing it the next year and the next year.”
Concord High leadership student Kyle Perra, 18, addressed the Concord City Council on behalf of the group.
“The Pleasant Hill City Council accepted this challenge last week and the Clayton and Walnut Creek councils were also asked to join the challenge,” he told his city leaders.
“Disgusting,” muttered Councilwoman Helen Allen, eager to best her rival city officials.
Kyle smiled and nodded.
“Disgusting,” he said.
Clearly, it’s on.
More information is at www.unitedmtdiabloathletics.org. I’ll check in with cities next week to see how well they’re doing in the challenge.
You can see the students at the Concord City Council meeting by clicking on “Public Comment” here: http://concordca.swagit.com/play/09282010-205/0/.
Will you be at the run to support Mt. Diablo district sports and represent your city or school?
By Theresa Harrington