Youth meet mixes fun, competition

Sunday, June 16, 2002

Claire Bira, like many youngsters, participated in an organized track and field event for the first time Saturday.

"It's for fun," said Bira, who has been running for only about a week prior to the Hershey Track and Field Youth Meet. She brought her neighbor along to participate as well. Bira, of Cape Girardeau, took second in the 200 meter dash.

Kim Groves' son, Kollin Groves, participated in the 100 and 50 on Saturday. Kim, of Cape Girardeau, has three sons.

"He's my all-around athlete," Groves said of her son. "He loves running."

She said Kollin is doing it for the experience and for a little fun. Kollin brought his friend Keke to run with him.

Stephanie Essner of Scott City, Mo., has participated in events like these for three years and it shows. Stephanie won the 100 and 200.

Whether they have experience or not these youngsters have one thing in common: they want to have fun. The meet at Central High School was the place to be for these youth. Kids laughed, smiled and cheered each other on. Even parents of the participants ran before the events started.

Kim Groves ran one of the events in which just one competitor was entered.

"Oh that was just a motivator because she was running by herself," said Groves.

To participate, all the children had to do was show up. Any boy or girl between nine and 14 could participate in any of the nine events. About 35 youth participated.

Chris Eastridge, the Recreation Coordinator for the Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation department, said the focus isn't on recruiting the older kids to participate but getting the youngsters involved.

"We try to get them in around nine then we have them for four more years," Eastridge said.

If the athlete wins the local competition then he or she moves on to state competition. The athlete's finish there will determine whether or not they advance to nationals in Hershey, Pa.

But the focus Saturday wasn't soley on how well you did, it's how well you liked doing it.

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