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Apr 28, 2004

And a Child Shall Lead Them...

LOS ANGELES (April 28) - At age 16, Ethiopia's tiny Meskerem Legesse toed the starting line in the 1,500 meters at the 2003 Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon.

A little over four minutes later, she finished third behind world-class stars Jolanda Ceplak of Slovenia and Suzy Favor Hamilton of the U.S. in an African Junior Record of 4:03.96. It was also the fastest time ever run by a 16-year-old.

Now her sights are set higher . . . toward Olympia and the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

Legesse will highlight the internationally-flavored women's 1,500 meters in The Home Depot Invitational on Saturday, May 22 at The Home Depot Center on the campus of California State University, Dominguez Hills in Carson, California.

She will be challenged by Canada's Courtney Babcock, who posted the 11th fastest time in the world last season at 4:01.99, and by Americans Nicole Teter and Shayne Culpepper.

Teter was the American 800 meter champion in 2002 and is a favorite to make the U.S. Olympic team in both the 800 and 1,500. Culpepper scored a rare U.S. distance medal in international competition with her breakthrough bronze-winning performance in the 3,000 meters in the World Indoor Championships in Budapest in March. She finished behind Ethiopian stars Meseret Defar and Berhane Adere.

\"Will Legesse's ability to set a strong pace withstand Teter's kick?\" asks meet director Rich Perelman. \"That's the question that will have to be answered. Legesse will be just 17 when she races at The Home Depot Center and that will be a factor since Teter is much more experienced at 30.\"

The 5-3, 110-pound Legesse, who trains in Tucson, Arizona, has been showing increased speed in 2004, setting a World Junior Record for the indoor 800 meters on February in Fayetteville, Arkansas at 2:01.03.

Culpepper was a U.S. Olympian in the 1,500 meters in 2000 when she ran her lifetime best of 4.07.99. Given her success in the 3,000 meters in the World Indoors, the results of the Home Depot Invitational will help determine whether she tries for the U.S. team in the 1,500 or the 5,000. She will try to join husband Alan Culpepper on the U.S. team; Alan Culpepper won the U.S. marathon trials in February. The U.S. Olympic Trials will be held from July 9-18 in Sacramento.

The women's 1,500 is only one of 15 world-class events at The Home Depot Invitational. Other featured events will be the 100 meters, with defending Olympic champions Maurice Greene and Marion Jones on hand, the women's 100-meter Hurdles with legendary Olympic gold medalist Gail Devers battling Canada's reigning world champion Perdita Felicien and the men's pole vault with seven 19-foot vaulters on a U.S. runway for the first time ever. Defending Olympic champion Nick Hysong of the U.S. will face off with 2001 world champion Dmitri Markov of Australia and U.S. record-holder Jeff Hartwig among others.

It's all part of the meet's theme of \"See Athens Before It Happens\" with 21 events in all and $140,000 in prize money. More than 40 Olympians from a dozen nations are expected to compete on The Home Depot Center's lightning-fast Mondo Super-X track. Rich Perelman is the Meet Director with Bruce Tenen serving as Elite Athlete Coordinator.

Tickets for The Home Depot Track & Field Invitational are priced at $40.00 (VIP), $25.00 (home straight) and $17.00 (back straight) are available through Ticketmaster's Charge-By-Phone network at (213) 480-3232, at all Ticketmaster retail ticket center locations including Wherehouse Records, Robinson's-May, Tower Records and Ritmo Latino locations and online at www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets are also available at The Home Depot Center's box office and the box office at TEAM LA at Universal CityWalk. Group sales ticketing and discount ticket information is available at 1-866-LA-Group (1-866-524-7687) or on-line at www.homedepotinvitational.com. The Home Depot Invitational will be broadcast live on NBC television from 1-3 p.m. Pacific time.

The Home Depot Track & Field Invitational is presented and produced by AEG, one of the world's leading presenters of sports and entertainment programs. AEG owns or operates facilities such as STAPLES Center, The Home Depot Center, HealthSouth Training Center, Kodak Theatre and NOKIA Live at Grand Prairie. The organization owns the Los Angeles Kings (NHL), Redding Royals (ECHL) and Manchester Monarchs (AHL), the Los Angeles Galaxy and four other MLS franchises and four hockey franchises operated in Europe. AEG LIVE is the world's second largest concert promoter.

The Home Depot Center is Southern California's new home of world-class competition and training facilities for amateur, Olympic, collegiate and professional athletes. The $150 million, privately-financed facility was developed and is operated by AEG on a 125-acre site on the campus of California State University, Dominguez Hills in Carson, California. The Home Depot Center features a 13,000-seat stadium for tennis, a 27,000-seat stadium for soccer, athletic competitions and outdoor concerts, a 20,000-capacity facility for track & field, the ADT Event Center, a 3,500-seat indoor velodrome (opening summer 2004) and other facilities for softball, baseball, beach volleyball, basketball and other sports.

Named an Official U.S. Olympic Training Site, The Home Depot Center is also the national team training headquarters for the U.S. Soccer Federation. The \"complex,\" which is also the home of the nationally recognized Athletes Performance Training Center for elite and professional athletes has additionally be designated \"official\" training sites for USA Cycling, United States Track & Field, the U.S. Tennis Association and the Association of Volleyball Professionals.

For additional information and media credentials, please contact
Jan Fambro at (310) 826-2962 or [email protected].