Column: "The Sports Trail": Hard work eliminates generation gap at district track meet

Thursday, May 2, 2002

by David McNeal

It was one of those rare days, when the day's plans worked out, with more high spots than low ones.

Yep, it was the annual senior high district track meet, held at the Gentry Pioneer track last week. The skies were blue, the sun was shining, but it was pretty darn cold for late April.

But a stalwart band of coaches, athletes, parents, and track enthusiasts were on hand to see the competition and to cheer their favorite teams and athletes.

Those kinds of days don't just happen. It takes a lot of work.

For instance, all the coaches had to fill out entry forms with athletes' names and which events they were going to enter. That had to be done a week ahead of time, during which the coaches taught school, held practice after school, and took kids to two track meets, which put them home late those nights.

Then all those entries had to be sorted out and put into lanes by times, with heat sheets run off for each coach to have. They need them. Although the athletes know if they are going to run the 200m dash, they don't know which heat.

Then you've got to get the athletes up early for the drive to Gentry because the field events start in the morning, with preliminary running events around noon. Some kids sit until mid-afternoon, waiting for their event if there are no prelims.

That span of time, from early morning until the meet is over and awards are presented, is where the fun is.

As I pulled into the parking lot next to the track, a solid line of Berryville athletes were walking across the parking lot with plates heaping with all kinds of food.

"Unreal," I thought, and went to investigate. "Ah, of course," I said as a picnic table came into view. It was Sharon Edens, wife of volunteer track coach Jack Edens. They always bring a big spread of food for the kids and Sharon was loading them up.

She insisted I eat something. I swear, really. So, I packed in a sandwich, some vegetables, and other goodies, then headed to the track for some action.

"Hey, Dave," Eureka track coach Hassell Bell said around a mouthful of pizza as I walked in. "Hospitality room is under the bleachers." So I checked, just to be friendly, you know.

After chowing down on some lasagna and french bread, I went to work and visited with parents and athletes while the prelims were going on, cruising the bleachers and field to hear how the athletes were feeling on the big day.

I also talked with coaches from our area schools, the ones that make it all happen; Claude Whited and Mike Gotcher from Green Forest, Ben Lairamore and Ken Krumwiede from Berryville, Hassell Bell from Eureka Springs, and a number of volunteers, both adult and student. Each had a story to tell about the day.

I sat on the front row of the bleachers, snapping pictures for this week's paper and saw Berryville's Tommy Shaffer win the high point award in the senior boys' division; I saw Eureka's Ashton Thurman thrill the crowd with his all-out, guts-to-the-finish 800m race; and I saw Green Forest's Jennifer Fultz win the 200m dash and 300m hurdles after previously qualifying for state in the high jump.

One fact was again crystal-clear as the meet ended and awards were handed out ---- it takes a lot of adults and students working together real hard to have something successful called a district track meet.

And the most exciting part? A bunch of the kids qualified for state and will get to do it all over again this Friday, in Heber Springs at the State Class AAA Preliminary Meet.

That should be another rare day.

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