The Ward Melville girls’ track and field team has found a way to raise money for its season while also providing families with young children from the district with a fun night to get out and exercise.
This is the third summer that the girls, lead by varsity coach Tom Youngs and junior varsity coach J.P. Deon, have organized races on six nights to host about 150 kids, though as many as 175 showed up on one night, from the community at the high school track.
“It [has] been really successful,” Youngs said of the three-year run of race nights, which took a hiatus last summer to allow for a new track to be put in at the high school. “We’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from the community.”
Nicole Murphy, a senior on the track team, also enjoys seeing the support the team gets during race nights.
“It’s nice to see everyone get together to participate in something,” Murphy said.
“It’s a great thing for the kids,” Tracy Seedorf, a community member and a parent of one of the runners, said. “My kid doesn’t play soccer. She’s not a ‘contact sport’ girl, so this is great. This makes it easier, especially when there’s a lot of kids here. It’s more fun for them.”
The race nights feature six events of various distances, with heats in each event for age group ranges.
“It’s a good opportunity for community members and their children, keeping them active and healthy throughout the summer months when they have that time to sit on the couch or just lay on the beach,” Youngs said. “It gives them something to look forward to every Thursday night.”
At the end of each race, members of the varsity track team wait at the finish line to write down the kid’s times on stickers that are stuck to runners shirts. The kids and their parents are encouraged to track their times in the various events to see their progress over the course of the summer.
“It’s nice to tie in the community,” Deon said. He added that a great deal of parents, and even grandparents’ involvement, is as a huge part of why the event has been successful. Ages of the runners span from 2 years old up to 12 or 13.
“I think they should start at an early age,” a parent, Marty Johnson, said of the importance of getting kids active, and also allowing them to socialize with their peers. Johnson said it was easy getting his kids enthusiastic about events like these. “My kids love being outside.”
Registration costs $5 a night per child, and three more race night events remain this year, including tonight. The registration period ends at 5:30 p.m. each Thursday, and races begin at 6 p.m. All of the funds raised go to the girls’ track team to be used for meets, invitationals, overnight trips and transportation.