Pasco Invite, Sun Downs up next

Tri-City HeraldApril 14, 2014 

I must find a way to clone myself for the big sports weekend coming up.

First of all, the organizers of the Pasco Invite — the largest one-day high school track and field meet in the nation — will hold the 53rd edition of this event beginning at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Edgar Brown Stadium.

More on that in a minute.

The other thing going on, both Saturday and Sunday, will be the Sun Downs horse racing meet at the Benton County Fairgrounds.

Every year — at least for the last few years — it doesn’t look like the meet will happen until the Tri-City Horse Racing Association and the Benton-Franklin County Fair board (who runs the grounds) finally come to an agreement.

But the parties agreed a few weeks ago, so the first post is at 1 p.m. Saturday. Sun Downs racing secretary Shorty Martin said race fans should expect a lot of trials this weekend.

“There are 13 horses left in the (American Quarter Horse Association) Maiden Challenge trials for Saturday,” said Martin.

Martin said the Merial Distaff Challenge will have 17 horses entered in the trials, and although there are just eight horses entered for the AQHA Starter Allowance trials, those horses will get two looks at each other.

“We won’t need any trials for the Starter Allowance trials,” said Martin. “But they can all run in the Boekenoogen Memorial, then come back in a few weeks and race in the Starter Allowance.”

The largest number of trials, looking to be four or five of them, will be the Pot O’Gold trials for Sunday.

Those will be the 2-year-old horses, the babies who have been practicing the last few weeks on how to break from the starting gate — trained by Martin himself.

Everything else is ready, said Martin.

“The bridge over the track is gone,” he said. “The bleachers are gone in front of the beer window. Malon Cowgill has had a couple of tractors up here working on the dirt. We’ll be taking entries on Wednesday and Thursday.”

Pasco Invite dedications

Every year, the Invite is dedicated to someone who has made some contributions to the betterment of the event. This year is no different, with four people who have passed away within the last year getting the honors.

They are former Pasco High football coach Bill Till; former star Pasco athlete Bernie Hancock; former Pasco High teacher and coach Jeff Dong; and former Richland High football coach J.D. Covington.

Watching Saturday’s meet will be worth it just to watch Kamiakin senior Ellie Heiden, who should end her prep career in May as one of the state’s best athletes.

Local talk sports back

A month ago, The Huddle — the only local sports radio talk program — went off the air. But last week, it was back on KONA 610 AM, but at a different time: 10 a.m. Monday through Friday.

And the show’s regular host, Robb Francis, is reunited with former talk show partner Craig West, the long-time radio voice of the Tri-City Americans.

KONA sports director Michael McDonnal said West was always on board to come back.

“We’ve been working on it for some time,” McDonnal said.

McDonnal said the station’s goal is to put on as much local talk on the radio as possible. Getting Francis and West back together is a good start.

Women’s basketball

Congrats to Hermiston High standout Shoni Schimmel, who was drafted in the first round of last night’s WNBA Draft.

Schimmel, who played high school basketball for Hermiston for two seasons before finishing at Franklin High in Portland, just completed her college career at Louisville a few weeks ago.

Schimmel’s Cardinals were eliminated in the Elite 8 by Maryland, but she competed in the festivities at the Final Four by winning the women’s 3-point shooting competition.

She quickly followed that up by beating the men’s champ, Baylor’s Brady Heslip, to become overall champion.

On Monday night, the Atlanta Dream selected her eighth overall.

More women’s basketball

Former Kennewick High standout Leilani Mitchell is a member of the Australian women’s national basketball team.

Mitchell, whose late mother was an Australian citizen, showed up unexpectedly to the national team tryouts, and the Aussie officials were excited.

Mitchell plays in the WNBA for the New York Liberty. But she also has been playing the last few months for the Dandenong Rangers in the Women’s National Basketball League in Australia.

The Rangers finished 16-8 during the regular season before being knocked out of the playoffs.

Mitchell finished third in the eight-team league in assists, averaging 5.4 a game.

She also was fourth in steals with a total of 38, and she averaged 11.9 points a game.

Mitchell was among an original group of 33 players invited to the original training camp for the Opals – what the Australians call the women’s national team.

That group has been whittled down to 24.

The Opals will be playing in the FIBA World Championships in Turkey from Sept. 27 through Oct. 5.

Early warning

A quick note on some of the bigger area upcoming events: April 19-20 and 26-27 is the Washington State Bowling Association’s Washington State Open Championship Tournament. Singles and doubles play will be at Atomic Bowl in Richland, while the team event is at Spare Time Lanes in Kennewick. Both sites begin competition at 11 a.m. on Saturday. ... On April 26-27, the Three Rivers Lacrosse Club’s Three Rivers Shootout takes place in Columbia Park. ... On May 1-3, the Great Northwest Athletic Conference softball tournament will be held in Richland.

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