“They’re really learning all the techniques now. They know how to throw the shot put, how to jump into the (long jump) pit, how to start with the gun, all of it. They’re learning what track is and what a track meet is.”
— Michele Chalmers, event organizer, about the Moffat County Youth Track Meet
Sadie Smilanich has a few points of pride in her athletic skills.
Besides winning back-to-back blue ribbons Monday afternoon, the 7-year-old also loves to bring up the fact that she can outrun her older brother.
But, the competition isn’t the only thing that’s important to her when she’s out on the field.
“It’s mostly all about having fun and trying your hardest,” she said.
Smilanich was one of more than 120 children at Monday’s Moffat County Youth Track Meet, an event designed to get children interested in track and field.
The Moffat County High School track and the adjacent bleachers were flooded with parents and volunteers ready to watch the energetic competitors, who ranged in age from kindergarten to sixth-grade, show what they had learned in the last several weeks of practice.
Organizer Michele Chalmers said the amount of work put in by the kids was easy to see.
“They’re really learning all the techniques now. They know how to throw the shot put, how to jump into the (long jump) pit, how to start with the gun, all of it,” she said. “They’re learning what track is and what a track meet is.”
Bringing order to the masses was difficult, as boys and girls were separated into age groups and spread out among different events, which included the high jump, shot put and numerous running activities.
Hannah Crookston, 6, participated in running, throwing and jumping events, though one stuck out for her.
“I like jumping the best,” she said. “I like the long jump.”
Hannah and her mother, Alida, said they try to do a lot of outdoor activities.
“Running is good because it keeps us healthy,” Hannah said.
Hannah placed fifth in the 100-meter dash and second in the 50-meter for her age group, though she treated her “Participant” ribbon for the shot put with just as much care as those with a higher ranking.
Smilanich took off like a bullet to win both the 50- and 100-meter runs. She said she’s gotten used to competing against her friends at school to see who’s the fastest.
“I really like racing when I’m running,” she said.
Her sibling, Hunter, 9, was uninterested in competing himself, but he was right there on the field to cheer her on, as were her parents and her grandma, Cyndy, who traveled from Grand Junction to see the event.
“She just runs everywhere she goes, and I’ll tell you, she’s fast,” Cyndy said.
Speed was a big part of 12-year-old Cole White’s day, but he also had to pace himself. White took a huge lead in the mile run, and stayed in front for the entire race, though he had to gut it out for the final moments.
“I was kind of nervous at first because I didn’t know what I was going up against, but about the third lap, I knew I had it,” he said.
White added that an extra boost kicked in for the last lap, allowing him to win the race at six minutes and 26 seconds.
“It’s weird because whenever I run long distance, my legs start to feel like Jell-O and then I can run faster,” he said. “I don’t really understand it.”
White added that he appreciated the effort put in by the volunteers, especially the members of the MCHS varsity track team who helped coach the kids leading up the meet.
“I’m OK, but I think I can learn a lot from them,” White said.
White said he runs with his father recreationally and is prepared to break a school record once he is able to join the Craig Middle School track team. He quoted the motto of the late Al Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders, to sum up his plans for his athletic career.
“Just win, baby,” White said,
Several of the MCHS runners had the chance to wear their championship medals from the Western Slope League Meet, including the boys 4x800-meter relay team, who set a new school record over the weekend.
“It still hasn’t even kicked in yet that we broke that, but it feels alright,” senior Johnny Landa said.
Landa was mostly responsible for handing out ribbons at the meet, though he helped supervise the younger kids in practice sessions.
“We just want them to have fun here, and they’ve started getting better and better as it goes, you can see the improvement,” Landa said.
Track Coach Todd Trapp said having his athletes teaching gives them a better understanding of why proper techniques are crucial.
“They realize what it is to be a coach and what we go through each and every day trying to help them and they see the frustrating things we see because kids don’t always listen whether they’re elementary or high school,” he said.
Trapp said he was very impressed with the work Chalmers has done with the program.
“I think Michele has done an outstanding job promoting track and field and for her to get these kind of numbers in the first year of doing it is awesome,” Trapp said. “She’s really passionate about it, and she’s gotten way more involvement than I could have done.
“We want to keep these kids excited and keep them involved until they get to high school. They definitely have some speed and jumping abilities and it’s just cool seeing them participate.”