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Hundreds compete in Sea Isle’s Junior Olympics on Fourth of July

  • Sea Isle City

Addison Esposito already had one shiny gold medal draped around her neck when she stepped onto the podium to receive another one during the awards ceremony at the Junior Olympics in Sea Isle City.

Just 3 years old, Addison won the long jump for her age group and also took first place in the beanbag toss.

“Was it special?” Heather Esposito asked her daughter about winning the gold medals.

Appearing too shy to answer, Addison responded by whispering “yes,” but didn’t say anything else.

“She’s a modest champion,” Heather said with a laugh while giving Addison a hug.

Addison was among more than 600 children from New Jersey and Pennsylvania who competed in the Junior Olympics, a Fourth of July tradition in Sea Isle dating to 1965.

Some of the kids compete year after year. The event has been going on for so long that it is not unusual for the grandparents or parents of the current generation of athletes to have competed in the Junior Olympics years ago.

    Heather and Jeff Esposito bring their children, Sullivan and Addison, to compete in the Junior Olympics.
 
 

On Thursday, Heather Esposito and her husband, Jeff, who live in Malvern, Pa., also watched their 10-year-old son, Sullivan, compete in the Junior Olympics.

Sullivan has been participating in the Junior Olympics for eight years and has won even more medals than his little sister, Addison.

“I have a bunch of them. I keep them at home,” Sullivan said.

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Sullivan added to his medal count on Thursday by winning the beanbag toss for his age group and apparently taking first in the long jump.

“I’m really athletic. I play a lot of sports,” he explained of his success in the Junior Olympics.

The Junior Olympics are open to children from 3 to 13. Kids compete in running, jumping and beanbag-tossing events. The top three finishers for their age group in each competition are awarded Olympic-style medals while standing on a three-tiered podium.

Some of the kids triumphantly raised their arms in celebration or flashed the No. 1 sign after medals were draped around their neck by Bill Murphy, the commodore of the Yacht Club of Sea Isle City.

    Some of the boys get ready to compete in the long jump before a big crowd of spectators.

More than 100 members from the Yacht Club volunteer for the event year after year to help make the Junior Olympics a success. One of them, Frank Urso, who serves on the Yacht Club’s board, dresses up as Uncle Sam and poses for photo ops with the kids and their parents.

“Most of them love it,” Urso said of the kids clamoring for photos with him in his Uncle Sam outfit. “They may not know who I’m supposed to be, but they love the costume. Their smiles are the best thing.”

Urso emphasized that the kids aren’t the only ones having a great time. Each year, members of the Yacht Club are eager to volunteer for the Junior Olympics in a show of camaraderie, he said.

“We asked for 125 volunteers, and we got 125 volunteers. They are the most loving, wonderful people. It’s a privilege for me to be with them,” he said.

The Junior Olympics are held each Fourth of July at Dealy Field, Sea Isle’s recreation and athletic complex. They are a centerpiece of the town’s family-friendly holiday celebration. They are hosted by the Yacht Club and the Sea Isle Division of Recreation.

“The island is bustling and filled up with people who are happy to celebrate July 4th in Sea Isle City,” Katherine Custer, the city’s public information officer, said of the Junior Olympics and big holiday crowds.

“It’s fun to see so many families decked out in red, white and blue gear and showing their patriotism. Everywhere you turn, you’re seeing happy faces,” Custer added.

    Uncle Sam, played by Yacht Club board member Frank Urso, is joined by a group of competitors for a photo op. 

Organizers said this year the Junior Olympics may have set a record for the number of participants. There were more than 600 kids competing Thursday, perhaps exceeding the all-time high of 635, they said.

“It definitely looks like we’re close to or even surpassing the record number of children,” Custer said.

John Krinis, of Glenside, Pa., cheered on his two daughters, Sadie, 9, and Carly, 7, and his son, J.P., 6, while they were competing Thursday. The Krinis family has been part of the Junior Olympics for three years.

“The kids were super-excited while looking forward to a fun week,” Krinis said of the build-up to the Junior Olympics. “The great thing is, they get outside with each other and enjoy the day – win or lose.”

His daughter, Carly, had just finished competing in the long jump when he came over to congratulate her.

Carly also competed in the running and beanbag-tossing events.

“I like it,” she said. “I like playing with my friends. It’s exciting.”

    Carly Krinis, 7, hits her mark in the long jump.
 
 


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