The Colgate Women’s Games, the nation’s largest amateur track series, begins its 44th season on Saturday at Pratt Institute at the Athletic and Recreation Center, the ARC Building on Willoughby Avenue in Brooklyn. Registration is from 9 a.m. through 1 p.m. Participation is free. There are no entry fees of any kind. It’s open to all girls, from elementary school through college and beyond. No experience in track and field is necessary. No expensive equipment is required, but all girls of school age must be enrolled in and attend school to participate. It fills a need created by the lack of after-school activities, nonexistent sports programs and the elimination of sports programs in many school districts.

Competitors will participate in preliminary meets and a semifinal Saturday, Jan. 27, in 2018 to determine the season’s finalists. The finalists will compete for trophies and educational grants-in-aid from the Colgate-Palmolive Company at the New Balance Track and Field Center located on West 168th Street in Manhattan, Saturday, Feb. 10. More than 11,000 registrants from the East Coast, Boston to Virginia, competed last season.

The goal of the Colgate Women’s Games is to provide athletic competition for the young girls and women who participate. It instills and reinforces the importance of education and provides a training ground for those who might not otherwise participate in an organized sport. The games are a platform for college recruitment of student athletes. It provides an opportunity for university and college recruiters, who often visit Colgate’s meets, to request meet results. “Colgate Games participants are among the most heavily recruited student athletes in the nation,” emphasized Cheryl Toussaint, the game’s meet director. The games have produced several Olympians and hundreds of national champions throughout the years.

Competitors are divided into six age or grade divisions: Elementary A—grades 1 through 3; Elementary B—grades 4 and 5; Middle School—grades 6 through 8; High School—grades 9 through 12; College (open); and 30-plus. There are eight events: the 55-meter dash, the 55-meter hurdles, the 200-meter dash, the 400-meter dash, an 800-meter run, a 1,500-meter run, the high jump and the shot put.

The Colgate Women’s Games were founded in 1974 by Fred Thompson, an attorney, a U.S. Olympic track team coach and the founder of the Brooklyn Atoms Track Club. With the generous support of the Colgate Palmolive Company, the program’s title sponsor, the games have flourished for more than four decades. Thompson also served as the games’ meet director until his retirement in 2014, passing it on to Toussaint, an Olympic medalist and an original member of Thompson’s track club. Toussaint has been involved with the games since their inception, first as a competitor and later as an official before becoming the assistant meet director in 1999, and then succeeding Thompson.