This little runner keeps his eyes on the ribbon just before crossing the finish line in first at the 35th Hershey's Track and Field Games at West Seattle Stadium on May 29. PLEASE CLICK THE PHOTO ABOVE FOR MORE
SLIDESHOW: Kids get active at Hershey's Track and Field Games
By Kaelyn Sayles
Athletes and volunteers at West Seattle Stadium celebrated the 35th anniversary of the Hershey's Track and Field Games Tuesday night.
Kids as young as five and up to 14 competed in running, throwing and jumping events. Ages nine to 14 competed for the chance to qualify in the state meet and continue to participate in the games.
Frank Cammarano, coordinator of the games from the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department, has been doing this for 12 years.
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“The Hershey’s program does things a little on the noncompetitive end in that you don’t wear spikes, you don’t use starting blocks,” Cammarano said. “It’s about participation for all kids, of any ability, so that’s what we’re hoping every year.”
Hershey's Track and Field Games alum and former NFL player Eric Metcalf stayed for most of the event to show his support.
Metcalf participated in the games back in the early 1980s and still remembers his first experience. He laughs at the memory.
It was obviously so long ago when I was in the Hershey’s meet, but it was an enjoyable time,” Metcalf said. “My first time, I had the chance of doing a relay or a sprint, and I picked the relay just because I wanted my friends to be able to come and everything. But the first time I went, we go and drop the stick, or I dropped the stick. I was getting the stick and it dropped. So one of us dropped it! But then the next year we came back and we won it and set the record at the time. But it’s just fun to go.”
Dennis Cook, citywide athletics manager for Seattle Parks and Recreation and the regional coordinator of the event has been involved with the games since before Metcalf participated. He remembers watching Metcalf compete and then move on to become a professional athlete. Cook describes his achievements in track and the NFL as “amazing.”
“We watch these guys come through the program, and you knew they were good athletes, but they’re also good people, and that’s the thing I like most about them,” Cook said.
Metcalf acknowledges that these games helped shape him as an athlete.
“I just love if anyone has any aspirations of one day being an, something like this that gives you an idea that those dreams can come true,” Metcalf said, the competition makes you want to work hard.
Hershey's sponsors these games with the intent to promote healthy and active living in the lives of children and their families.
James George, Chairman of the Board of Directors at Hershey’s for this event, said this program is free to participate in, going along with their mission to get local kids active.
“The whole intention of this program is to really get kids leading active lifestyles, really trying to encourage them to get off the sofa and out from video games and get outside,” George said.
Andi Wardinsky, regional spokesperson from the American Council on Exercise, spoke to the importance of kids getting active at a young age.
“It’s so critical that parents are a part of that formula because they are really the ones that set an example for a healthy lifestyle,” Wardinsky said.
She continued that this event is a great example of fun activities to get kids outside.
It was obvious that many of the kids were having a blast - panting excitedly after a race, running after each other around the track and showing off their athleticism at such a young age.
“It’s incredible,” Cook said of the athleticism.
“Each year you get two or three kids that just exceed your expectations…these kids are really competitive, and I just see a lot of good kids and the competition over here is pretty equal...Today is a good day.”
Cook sees the value of the competition youth experience at this event.
His hope is that they can take this competitiveness and use it in school and life.
“You have to understand that what you’re doing, to some extent, is always competing,” Cook said. “So don’t be afraid to compete, but always enjoy it, too, and what I like about it is that most of these kids that I see out here today are enjoying what they’re doing.”
Metcalf agrees with the value of hard work, noting an underlying message through all this competition.
“A lot of people want to advance, but at the same time it gives them the opportunity with something to look forward to next year so they’ll know what they have to do,” Metcalf said. “That’s what sports and life is about. If you don’t always succeed, just try to compete and get better at whatever you’re doing.
This gives them that hope and dream that they can do that.”
Dennis Cook said that Washington averages between 20-27 kids each year that go on to the national meet.
There were 264 participants, 84 of which will be advancing to the state meet, some in multiple events.
The state meet will be held in Tacoma on June 30.
The top athletes from the state meet will move on to the 2012 North American Final Meet in Hersey, Pa.
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