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P’ville native helping out at soccer tourney

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Skydivers from Fort Bragg dotting the horizon. A stadium torch run. And everywhere you look young people playing championship-level soccer.

That’s what’s coming to the Tri-State starting this evening when the 2009 U.S. Youth Soccer Region I Championship goes into high gear through July 7 at two stadiums in Huntington.

And volunteering behind the scenes is Proctorville native and Fairland High graduate Ron Martin. For the past two weeks, Martin and other volunteers with the West Virginia Premier Soccer Club have been mapping out some of the 22 playing fields and painting lines there all to get ready for the big event.

Martin’s two sons, Jared, 14, and Logan, 11, have been avid soccer players since they got into the game as toddlers. Their enthusiasm is what brought Dad along to the field.

“It is exciting and competitive,” Martin said. “Soccer is one of the games everybody can play. It is very simple to understand.”

This championship is bringing in 5,000 players in 282 teams from the ages of 12 to 19 years old. The Cabell-Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates between 15,000 and 20,000 will come to the Tri-State as part of the national games.

“This is an incredible opportunity for the entire Tri-State area,” Tyson Compton, executive director of the bureau, said “The great thing is not only will they be staying here. There will be so many that will translate into money into our community from restaurants and shopping.”

Martin knows firsthand the effect a tournament of this kind can mean to the area. Last summer his two boys played in the Region I Championship when it was held in Maine.

“It is exciting. You are playing against the best of the country,” he said.

Teams this year will come from Maine, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.

The games kick off at 3:50 p.m. today at Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards Stadium when skydivers from the All-American Freefall Team from Fort Bragg parachute onto the stadium turf to deliver a proclamation that will be read by Gov. Joe Manchin.

The two-hour opening ceremony will feature an Olympic-style parade of the players and referees following by a torch run by the West Virginia 1997 1 U-12 soccer champions. Gates open at 2 p.m. and admission is free. Free parking will be available on all MU surface lots and concessions will be open at the stadium.

Friday starts the games that are played throughout the day on 22 fields at the Barboursville Soccer Complex and the Huntington YMCA Scott Orthopedic Soccer Complex.

“This is a worldwide game,” Martin said. “We have sports football and basketball, but the world gets excited about soccer.”