Learning Matters: Track meet gives students chance to get involved

This year’s annual track competition among Glendale’s middle schools took place last Friday at Glendale’s Moyse Field. I’m so glad I happened upon the notice through the school district’s website. The Middle School Track Meet offers an emotional boost I wouldn’t want to miss.

There’s so much to like about this event, starting with the festive array of all the team shirts: Roosevelt red, Rosemont gray, Toll yellow and Wilson blue. Looking at the field, you see students clustered by color, others mingling with their crosstown rivals, surging together to finish lines and cheering on their friends.

Glendale High track teammates were there, too, in Nitro red and black. Serving as hosts, they directed their protégés to their races and jumps, assured nervous novices and rooted for younger siblings. It’s a delightful opportunity for student-to-student mentoring.

For many of these young athletes — some of whom have never considered themselves athletic — the meet is their first time on a high school campus; for most, it’s their first time on the field. For those who haven’t participated in the Glendale Educational Foundation-sponsored sports program, it’s their first intradistrict sports competition.

This year, Roosevelt Principal Mary Mason told me that students were extra excited, thanks in part to a March rain delay and pent-up anticipation.

The adults at the meet were enthusiastic, too. There were those who had run track in high school and college, a few who now coach club teams. Others (like me) haven’t run a race since their middle-school days. Coaches present included both school physical education teachers and volunteer parents. All around, adults were smiling.

Karen Bomar, a counselor at Rosemont and parent in the district, explained that Rosemont is a running school. All students there, not just those who participate in after-school track, run laps every Friday.

Wilson Principal Rich Lucas expressed his pride in his school fielding 80 students for the meet. “This event,” he said, “allows a lot of kids to get involved.”

Perhaps Glendale High senior Michael Williams — also a veteran of stage crew, drama, and the “Poetry Out Loud” contest — said it best when I asked him what he liked about track. After pondering a few moments, he replied, “There’s a lot to do, and everybody finds their own thing.”

That’s what I love about track for students. Like swimming, it’s a sport which emphasizes individual improvement. (Isn’t that a primary goal of all education?) Yes, students and coaches want their teams to win, but day-to-day, the focus is on achieving “personal bests,” and not everyone has to be a runner or jumper. There’s also shotput, which requires and builds a different kind of strength.

Students and adults alike cheer for the stragglers in the mile as much as they applaud the frontrunners. And the cheers aren’t only for teammates. “They really support each other, and that’s the best part,” a Roosevelt coach told me.

The adults who’ve supported this competition, sponsored it and kept it going, are the members of West Glendale Gateway Kiwanis. Bill James volunteered to help out with timing the races and selling snacks at the concession stands 27 years ago, he told me. His wife, Sharon, who has joined in the fun all these years, too, said he had no idea how long that offer of help would take him.

And they’re not alone in their longevity of service. Fellow Kiwanians who’ve volunteered over the decades include Bill Francis, announcer Ray Calame, Milt Fernandez and Sam Engel.

Former Mayor Rick Reyes has been another longtime track-meet supporter, ever since his days as a school resource officer. He grinned as he pointed to the students talking and cheering on the field. “Kids who aren’t friends become friends,” he said. For him, that’s as important as the athletic outcomes.

Thank you, West Glendale Gateway Kiwanis and others in the community, for your long support of the Middle School Track Meet and the formation of friendships. And congratulations to Roosevelt for being this year’s overall track-meet winner and top team.

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JOYLENE WAGNER is a former member of the Glendale Unified school board. Email her at jkate4400@aol.com.

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