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City athletes qualify for Empire Games

A year ago, the Empire State Games did not take place, and there were grave concerns about whether the event, more than three decades old, would ever come back.

However, increased corporate sponsorship has allowed the ESG to return, which it does on July 21 with opening ceremonies at University at Buffalo Stadium. Following that, from July 22 to 25 thousands of athletes from six regions (Central, Western, Adirondack, Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island) battle for medals in more than 20 sports across Western New York.

Syracuse is, once again, sending many of its top athletes to the Empire Games. Here is a list of them, and where they will be competing.

Baseball - Rivals during the spring, Kevin McAvoy (Westhill) and Matt Pirro (Bishop Ludden) both will pitch for Central's scholastic men's team, splitting games between Amherst's Audubon complex and Erie Community College's north campus.

Basketball - Onondaga Community College coaches Dave Pasiak (men) and Mike Wheeler (women) are leading the Central open division teams, while Claire Kelley and Taylor Bassett both are on scholastic teams. The men's tournament is at Canisius College, the women's tournament at Niagara University.

Boxing - Four Syracuse boxers -- Jimmy Garcia, Pedro Melendez, Maurice Tartt and Dominick Vidal -- are entering the ring, with ESG bouts set for Erie Community College's Burt Flickinger Center in downtown Buffalo.

Diving - Imani Williams, a record-setting performer for the combined Corcoran/Westhill girls swim team and ESG veteran, is in the scholastic women's one and three-meter events at UB's Alumni Arena.

Fencing - In the ESG tournament at Niagara Falls High School, Sarah DeRusha, Peter Neiner (both in sabre) and Michelle Leombrone (epee) both are in open competition, with Signe Golash entered in the scholastic women's sabre.

Gymnastics - Four Syracuse natives are headed for Buffalo State College Sports Arena in scholastic gymnastics events -- Kelsey Cook and Tanya Williams on the women's side, Neil Damron and Zach Mills on the men's side.

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