One-hundred and seventy of the top Jewish athletes from around the state will represent the Baltimore Maccabi Club at the 15th Maccabi Youth Games.
The Olympic-style event, sponsored by the Jewish Community Center Association of North America, will feature 15 different sports and will be conducted simultaneously in six cities around the country.
Members of the Baltimore Maccabi Club will be among the 4,500 Jewish teens, ages 13-16, from the United States, Canada, Mexico and Israel gathering to compete in sports, develop lasting friendships, learn about their heritage and celebrate their faith.
With youth nationals taking place every two years, this year's event will be a regional competition held in Hartford, Conn., Milwaukee, Kansas City, Mo., Pittsburgh, Sarasota, Fla., and Seattle.
The Maccabi Youth Games, the largest Jewish teen activity in the world, came to Baltimore in 1992 and attracted a record 2,500 athletes. Since that time, the Baltimore Maccabi Club has experienced the fastest team growth for one city in the history of the Games, expanding from 70 athletes in Cleveland in 1994 to the 170 athletes expected to compete this year in Kansas City (Sunday-Tuesday), Milwaukee (Sunday-Tuesday) and Pittsburgh (Aug. 17-22).
Baltimore won the regional games in Houston in 1995, bringing home 45 medals, and captured the national crown last year in St. Louis after collecting 75 medals.
"Chicago and Baltimore have the two largest Maccabi programs in the world, but considering the small size of Baltimore's Jewish population, it's amazing the success we have had," said Baltimore Maccabi Club chairman Charlie Levine. "The key to our success has been the quality of the coaching. We now have mostly high school coaches, who have helped convince the best kids to come out and participate. We got rid of the so-called 'Little League dads.' "
Accompanying Baltimore's delegation will be 35 coaches and a six-member support staff. Among the coaches is Lynn Baklor, a Pikesville High graduate, who became a standout for Duke's women's volleyball team. Baklor assembled the Baltimore Maccabi Club's first women's team two years ago and the team has gone on to win back-to-back gold medals.
Baklor heads to Milwaukee with four returning starters from last year's team, including Shelby Winik, a hitter from Owings Mills High who has been a member of the team since its inception.
"The bottom line is that the girls have fun, but a three-peat would be nice," said Baklor. "Our goal certainly is to win the gold but it's more important to me that they appreciate the full Games and realize that the term Jewish-athlete is not an oxymoron."
Pub Date: 8/08/97