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Hershey meet gives kids a chance to run

Phil Sandoval

Grins and ribbons flowed from every corner of the track at Glenwood Springs High School’s Stubler Memorial Field during Wednesday’s annual Hershey meet.

That’s one of the goals of the annual nationwide comeptition.

And For 25 years, the Hershey youth track program has put smiles on a lot kids faces.

The nationally-endowed programs are run through city recreation departments. And the program is structured to give children ages 9 to 14 the opportunity to learn and enjoy the sport of track and field.

All a kid needs to do to sign up is present a copy of their birth certificate and a desire to try.

The program also gives children a chance to prove their skill level against others of their own age at state and national levels.

Each first-place winner in the 17-event meet, which is broken down in 9-10, 11-12 and 13-14 age group divisions for boys and girls, advance to the Colorado state meet in Lakewood in July.

Winners from the Colorado meet are merged with state winners from Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, South and North Dakota and three Canadian provinces as one regional team for the national finals held Aug. 7-10 in Hershey, Penn.

Twenty-two of the close to 40 kids on hand at Glenwood Springs High School’s Stubler Memorial Field ran, jumped or threw far enough or fast enough to advance to the state level.

Two boys and one girl each won three events.

Glenwood Springs Middle Schoolers Ayla Dobbs and Justin Church, both 13, won the 100- and 200-meter dashes and softball throw in their respective divisions. Christian Willey, another Glenwood resident, was a triple-winner in the 9-10 year-old division.

Willey earned his way to the state meet in the 100-meter dash with a 15.99 effort. Later, he clocked a 1:26.44 time in the 400, and fired a 49 foot, 10 inch throw to take the softball throw blue ribbon.

Dobbs posted first-place times of 15.02 and 32.02 seconds in the running events and won the softball throw with a toss of 96 feet, 1 inch.

Church nailed a 194 foot, 10 inch throw in the softball competition along with a 26.24 200-meter dash time and a 13.20 finish in the 100.

Other multiple event winners at Wednesday’s meet included Taryn Pierce, girls 9-10 year-old long jump and 200, and Avery Denney, 11-12 girls 100 and 200-meter runs. Kevin Hartman won the 9-10 competition in the long jump and 200 meters.

Single-event girls division winners included Allison Brown, 9-10, 50-meter run; Alley Rippy, 9-10 softball throw; Angela Vichick, 13-14, 800 meters; Kat Fitzpatrick, 11-12, 400 meters; Angela Shepard, 11-12, 800 meters; and Theresa Gabriel 11-12, long jump.

Boys division first-place event winners included Taylor Goodstein, 9-10, 400 meters; Andrew Pierce, 11-12 long jump; Bo Pearce, 11-12, 100 meters; Clay Hawkins, 11-12 softball throw; Jesse Pine, 11-12, 400 meters; Connor Riley, 11-12, 200 meters; Tony Garling, 13-14, 800 meters; and Ryan Yost, 13-14, 1600 meters.

Hart started his swims in 1978 as a lunch-break pastime with some of his co-workers at the Forest Service. As the years progressed, Hart’s workouts increased.

Originally, Hart said, he would swim about a mile. That’s now turned into a swim of between two to two-and-a-half miles. According to his figures, he swims around 200 days a year, averaging 480 miles a year.

Roughly a half-dozen regular members attend the workouts, one of whom is Tony Svatos. Svatos swam side-by-side with Hart from the start.

And, depending on the time of the year, others joining Hart at the pool’s lane lines include Sopris Elementary School principal and Sopris Barracuda swim team coach, Howard Jay; Glenwood High School girls swim team coach Lynn Cassidy; Jim Van Meter of Rifle; and GSHS graduate Katie Schaffner, who swims competitively at the University of Northern Colorado.

Hart said that the group was one of the main reasons why he continues to swim.

“It’s a diverse group of people. Over the years, some people have come and gone. Some and enjoy being with us for a while and others have stayed for a long time,” said Hart.

The core of the group is serious about the workouts – something that Hart enjoys.

“We all swim hard. It’s fairly competitive,” Hart said. “Of course, I’m one of the slowest ones in the group now. I used to be faster, but (at 58 years old), I’m not as fast as I used to be.”

“We feed off each other and encourage each other,” Hart continued. “That makes the exercise a lot more fun because you kind of grow on each other and get extra energy with the people your working out with.”

Hart started recording his swimming mileage in 1979, but never paid too much attention to it until six months ago.

“I looked at my records, and I saw that I was close to 10,000 miles,” he said. “Then I could hardly wait to get it.”

Last Friday, Hart obtained his goal. And the swimming group turned Hart’s accomplishment into a mini-event.

Svatos purchased a special swimsuit with “10,000 miles” printed on it for his friend of nearly a quarter-century. Other members presented Hart with a cap. He said those items will be framed and put up on a wall at his home.

And the miles go on for Hart. He was at the pool the next day, starting on his second 10,000 miles.


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