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Let the N.M. Games Begin— for 16th Time

By Glen Rosales
For the Journal
    Now that warmer weather is here, it's time for couch denizens to break out of their cozy environs and hit the various fields and courts of competition.
    That's right; it's time for the annual Olympic-style event known as the New Mexico Games.
    Entering its 16th season, the Games feature competition in 16 sporting events ranging from archery and billiards to wrestling and weightlifting.
    Although the opening ceremonies were Wednesday, when University of New Mexico basketball players Abbie Letz and Troy DeVries lit the torch, play actually started last weekend with soccer.
    "I think the event is really awesome," Letz says of the Games. "It gives people a chance to do the things they love."
    During the opening ceremonies, former Olympian Trish King Porter was honored as the New Mexico female athlete of the year after setting a national Games age-group record last year in the high jump at 1.73 meters— 11 years after she last competed.
    "I really believe the New Mexico Games are so important to our state," King Porter says.
    The male athlete award went to 12-year-old Tristan Bennett, who has competed in three swimming events the last three years and won gold each time.
    Next on the schedule is the Games' signature event, basketball, in which approximately 225 teams play at three sites on 12 courts from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. throughout the Memorial Day weekend.
    "We're going to have to add a fourth gym next year," says Games executive director Fred Hultberg. "It's just getting too big."
    Most of the Lobos look forward to the competition, DeVries says.
    "It's fun, but it's exciting," he says. "The guys always love to play in the Games. It's always competitive, but it's fun."
    About 8,000 athletes ranging in age from 8 to 80 are expected to compete, Hultberg says.
    Something that should help participation is that the State Games of America, which brings together medal winners from various events, will be held in Colorado Springs in 2005.
    Most of the Games' action this year will be held in June, with archery taking place in July and bowling in late November.
    In addition is the rebirth of the 5-kilometer run and walk, which also be held in November. Olympic hopeful Amy Yoder Begley is one of the commissioners.