Dedication at Dusk
As youth participation in Summer Track has grown over the years, Tom Perkins, Perry Shaw and Bill Lott have had to implement some creative scheduling in order to accommodate everyone before it gets too late. One example was the implementation of two concurrent sets of 100 meter heats with one on the backstretch. This past Thursday (July 14, 2011) offered one more small challenge they deftly handled. For the first time all summer, both local youth track clubs (the Tallahassee Trailblazers and the Capital City Christian Cruisers) were in attendance. This was clearly the largest turnout of the summer. Parents gathered in bleachers and folding chairs to watch their young track stars engage in spirited competition. This was terrific, just what Summer Track is all about. All ages and ability levels would have the chance to compete. The challenge is that more participants equal more heats and sometimes more events. After about an hour and 15 minutes, we were about halfway through the 400 meter heats and several enthusiastic youngsters were running around the infield with batons asking their coaches when the 4 x 100 relay will be. Now, standard protocol usually was that any relays occurred after all other events are completed. The only problem was that it was almost dusk, we still had the mile and Summer GP 5000 meter to go, and flood lights would not be illuminating the affair. No problem for Tom, though. First, he started the mile and 5000 meter together (not an unusual occurrence). About 15 Gulf Winds diehards listened for the gun from the 200 meter line (we may have missed a second or so, but who’s counting?) The mile seemed well attended by parents, little ones and other casual runners. When the mile participants all cleared out, the crew implemented the next step: the 4 x 100 relay heats would occur in lanes 4, 5, and 6 while the 5000 meter runners continued. Various parents took on the task of supervising the exchanges. Piece of cake; just another day at the office for Tom and his group of dedicated volunteers who devote countless hours every summer making this an enduring community event.
While there weren’t many participants in the 5000, each one has his or her own story. While I can’t do justice to them all, I wish to share a couple things that registered with me. Andrew Smyth and Ryan Truchelut ran in a closely matched competition the entire way with Smyth holding out in the end. Truchelut deserves congratulations nonetheless for his overall Summer GP points championship. Young Caleb Harris motored through a 20:46 or so. The women’s division had a turnout of only 5 runners, but that didn’t diminish its importance for three young ladies who took the top three places. Alexandra Wallace (13) and Laurie Findley (14) ran together the whole way with Wallace getting an edge at the finish. Findley capped off an outstanding summer with a 2nd place overall points total. Ana Wallace (11) took 3rd. All three were well under 26 minutes, with at least two getting PRs despite the muggy conditions. Rebecca Lightle missed the race but still ended up with the women’s overall points title.
A little after 9 p.m., my daughters and I started walking towards the car. In the darkness we spotted Robert Morris approaching the last curve with Dana Stetson, who had been running alongside and providing encouragement the last few laps. While I had shouted support a couple times during the race, I’ll admit I had almost forgotten about his finish. We decided to tag along from the infield. Morris, 79 years young, Korean War veteran and one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, had a mission for this evening. “I want to break 40,” he said with authority. He made sure there was no uncertainty about that. The last 150 meters were traversed quite briskly. The red glow of the big clock provided the primary source of light at the finish line. It brightly shone…. 39:13.