OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — Thomas Broome has had a successful career as an attorney in Oakland, and credits much of his academic development to the role high school sports played in his life.

For 35 years, he’s been giving back through the Oakland Invitational Relays – a premier high school track meet he helped create to highlight the best in Oakland youth.

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If Thomas Broome looks at home on the McClymonds High School athletic field, it’s because he competed there as an Oakland High School student.

The kids competing on the all-weather track and field often don’t know they owe a great deal to the local attorney.

“We were looking at the plight of schools not having facilities they needed to be competitive with other school districts,” said Broome.

Thirty-five years ago, Broome and three colleagues, all track enthusiasts, started the Oakland Invitational Relays, not just to raise money for equipment and facilities, but to give Oakland students a chance to compete on a bigger stage.

“It’s important because it exposes the youngsters to kids from throughout the state,” Broome explained.

It’s become an annual premier track and field event, attracting thousands of boys and girls from across the state, including several Olympians.

And all the money raised benefits the Oakland Athletic League.

From starting blocks, to hurdles, and a state-of-the-art timing system, Broome’s event helps raise thousands of dollars for Oakland high school track and field programs.

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Watching practice from the stands on this day are several former participants.

All say the Oakland Invitational opened their worlds.

Former world class sprinter Jeff Laynes got a track scholarship to USC, and credits Mr. Broome’s event with increasing his visibility.

“He was a pioneer to be able to help us as a stepping stone, as to ‘This is what track can do.'” said Jeff.

Relonda Hancock McGhee ran in the very first Invitational, and now helps run the annual event.

“It gives a lot of kids hope that the Oakland Invitational exists when they can compete at a high level,” Relonda said. “It takes discipline, focus, and commitment both on the track and in academics.”

For Thomas Broome, it’s always been about the students, and the link between competitive sports and academic success.

“That is what sort of fueled me,” he said, “seeing many of them go on to be successful. That’s what keeps you going.”

So for supporting thousands of Oakland youth in their race to success, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Thomas Broome.

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Mr. Broome is always looking for sponsors to help with the all-volunteer Oakland Invitational Relays. If you want to get involved and support Oakland youth, go to www.oaklandrelays.org.