Off and Running: Garfield County kids enjoy Hershey Track and Field Meet in Rifle
Post Independent Sports Editor
RIFLE — MacKenzie Elizardo wasn’t tired even after running so much on Saturday.
The soon-to-be fifth-grader seemed to be everywhere at the annual Hershey Track and Field Meet at Bears Stadium. She had run the 1,600 meters, along with the 100 and 200. Yet she was all smiles after all of that, especially since she’s done much more running lately.
“I did Girls on the Run last month, and that was a 5K that I finished fifth in,” said the 10-year-old Elizardo, a student at Graham Mesa Elementary School in Rifle. “This is just fun to try my hardest and do this. I like being able to get a chance to do things not a lot of kids get a chance to do.”
MacKenzie definitely wasn’t lonely during Saturday’s meet. An estimated 75 participants — more than any turnout in years past according to event officials — took part in a local competition, which can send youth athletes to sectional, and even national, competitions.
“This is a great community event,” said Blair Bracken, the special events coordinator with Rifle Recreation. “We try to provide a lot of outlets for youth, weather it’s through sports or employment.”
Winners of each event ages 9 to 14 qualified for the state sectional meet, which will be held June 15 at Stoker Stadium in Grand Junction. Sectional winners move on to the state meet with a chance to compete at the national meet at Hershey, Pa.
Younger children ages 3 to 8, however, participated just as much as the older kids even though their results didn’t qualify them for another meet.
Not every venue which hosts a Hershey Track and Field meet allows the younger kids to participate. Rifle does, though.
“We do because we want everyone to participate,” Bracken said. “It’s never too early to be active.”
The Glenwood Springers track club helped with that, bringing close to two dozen to the meet to help them prepare for a meet the club will host on June 19. Those who participated Saturday, however, took part in traditional events like the softball throw, the standing long jump and the 50-meter dash.
And kids who come are beginning to come back on and annual basis. One such participant was Andrew Leyba, a 9-year-old Highland Elementary School student who was running in the meet for the third straight year. He ran — and won — his age group in the 400 meters, and he also took part in the standing long jump and the 50 meters. His win in the 400 qualified him for the sectional meet, but that wasn’t on the forefront of his mind afterward.
“I do this every year because I also wrestle and want to stay in shape,” Andrew said. “But I also want more muscle, and … running around a track is really good for your legs.”
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Fans, players and coaches on both sides of Stubler Memorial Field seemed to know it would come down just the way it did, regardless of who had the ball at the end.