NEW YORK - High school track and field athletes from across the tri-state area gathered at The Armory New Balance Track and Field Center here for the annual Marine Corps Holiday Classic Thursday.<br /> <br /> One of the main objectives of the Marine Corps Holiday Classic is to provide Marines with opportunities to purposefully engage well-rounded student athletes to share Marine Corps leadership lessons and opportunities that will enable their future success.<br /> <br /> “The Marine Corps advocates for high-achieving high school student athletes and views today’s event as an opportunity to establish a strong connection with America’s youth,” said Capt. Ramon Deleon, Recruiting Station New York’s executive officer.<br /> <br /> Athletes were able to test their strength in the Marine Corps Pull-up Challenge. Depending on how many properly executed pull-ups they did, they were awarded different prizes. This also provided Marines with the opportunity to mingle with the athletes and answer any questions.<br /> <br /> "I knew Marines were tough and kind, but after talking to them I realized they're even tougher and kinder than I imagined," said Simone Brownlee, a 17-year-old hurdler for Columbia High School, and native of Maplewood, N.J.<br /> <br /> Brownlee executed 10 pull-ups, holding the number one spot for females for the entire meet.<br /> <br /> During a ceremony held midway through the meet, Sgt. Kristin Moreno, RS New York’s marketing and public affairs representative and native of Bangor, Maine, sang the national anthem as the colors were presented by Marines from the 1st Marine Corps District. <br /> <br /> Immediately following, Deleon gave a motivational speech to the athletes, noting several parallels between the Marine Corps and high school athletics.<br /> <br /> "Like the Marine Corps, high school athletics demand quality of character, excellence in education, and proven physical fitness," said Deleon, a native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.<br /> <br /> Although the Marine Corps Holiday Classic is one of the largest events of the season, Marines are involved at various meets throughout the entire year. The next event they will be attending is the Hispanic Games on Jan. 18.<br /> <br /> "We are just trying to make a positive impression on today's youth because they are our future," said Sgt. Julio Chicas, a recruiter assigned to Recruiting Substation Jamaica. "It's not solely about recruiting; it’s also about generating awareness of what we do and what we're all about."