Hershey meet is a chance to shine for area athletes

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Some of the area's top athletes showed their strength Saturday at Central Junior High School, all of them chasing a spot in the state Hershey Track and Field Meet.

The area Hershey qualifying meet offers children ages 9 to 14 the chance to go all the way to the national meet in Hershey, Pa., in events like dashes, runs, standing long jump and softball throw. Nearly 30 athletes participated in the 14th annual local meet, which sends the winner of each event to Jefferson City for the state meet June 27.

The number of participants was "about average," said Chris Eastridge, recreation coordinator for the Parks and Recreation Department. "We may have lost some kids to a swim meet today, but there's so much going out there."

Saturday's event featured several dominating performances. Thirteen-year-old Brooks Osburn of Cape Girardeau and the brother duo of Drew (12) and Trey (10) Gardner each won three events apiece in their age groups.

Drew Gardner and Osburn each won the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash and softball throw. Trey Gardner won the 50, 100 and standing long jump. All three will make the trip to Jefferson City for the state meet.

Osburn, who runs for Central Junior High's track and field team, said track gives him the chance to size up his talent against other local athletes.

"It's just the competition against everyone, and being able to see how fast you are against everyone else," he said.

For Drew and Trey Gardner, sprinting is in their blood. Their father, Dana, was a star sprinter at Southeast Missouri State University in the mid-1980s and set the school record in the 100 with a 10.24 in 1986.

Both Gardners prefer the shorter distance events like their father.

"I don't like to run long distances. I like to sprint," Drew Gardner said.

"I don't like running long distances because it takes too long," Trey Gardner added.

Drew and Trey both have proven speed, with Drew having won the Fastest Kid in Cape competition at Abe Stuber Track Complex earlier this year. His brother Trey won in a play-day event at his school.

Their mother, Sharon, said she was proud of her sons' performance, especially since it was their biggest competition so far.

"They're both competitive, but of course I can't take any credit for that. They get that from their dad," she said.

The local meet had several strong times, which Eastridge said could hold up well at the state meet.

"I've been doing this for six years, and in three of the six we've had people go to nationals," he said. "We do have a pretty good reputation for qualifying people."


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