The Day Rocket Man (and Woman) Came to Practice

David Yon, July 6, 2021

Some Striders and SMIRFs say it may go down as the best SMIRF practice ever.  It was the day Rocket Man came to practice. It was also Monday, July 5, and a light rain had been falling but had now stopped.  On Friday, July 2, I had told the kids they could take Monday, the day after July    off.    But you know runners – a day off does not compute. Brandi Campbell, one of the coaches, was there as were Mark and Warren, Kennedy and Caden, and Parker.

The SMIRF group always sets up under a shelter adjacent to the parking lot for the soccer fields and the hiking trails for Phipps Park.  The shelter roof covers a concrete floor and two picnic tables. We took off to do our slow jog warmup, form drills, and then run in a “pace line.” The leader would run for approximately 30 seconds, then fall to the end of the line. The second runner then became the lead runner and ran for 30 seconds before going to the back.  And so on…

Annoyingly, a couple had moved on to one of our tables. Didn’t they know we paid good money for that table?  (Actually, we do not pay for it, but they did not know that.) A quick glance at the table revealed it was covered with rockets owned by Trinyan Mariano and Ward Singer. And far from being annoyed, we were about to make some great new friends. I do not recall who started the conversation, clearly a group of kids were ready to to watch “lift off.”

As Ward powered up the first rocket, I watched lackadaisically thinking I was about to see a toy rocket rise up 100 yards or so into the air and then fall back to the soccer field.  The first launch attempt had to be aborted due to equipment malfunction.  Ward tested and checked and tested again. And then just before despair arrived, Ward yelled to the SMIRFs: “Count down from 10.” The countdown began – “10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 – lift off.”

It was not as if the ground began shaking, but the rocket did begin “whooshing” toward the sky. It gradually increased its speed until it seemed to shift gears and head for the outer edge of the universe.  I am not sure if any of the 12-15 rockets fired that morning made it to the clouds, but it sure seemed like many of them did.   Most of them would be lost beyond eyesight for a few moments. Then they would turn and head back to Mother Earth. Almost immediately, a parachute would open and kids would start yelling “there it is” while running to retrieve the rockets.

Everyone got the chance to launch at least two rockets and meet their running quotas for the day by chasing rockets.  Our new friends seemed pleased to have help chasing the rockets down.  Maybe you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to run, but you might miss out on a lot of fun if you do not know how to fly a rocket.

Youth Running

After five weeks and six meets, Leon County Schools' 2019 middle school cross-country season is over. And just like each year since 2010, the season ended with the League Championship Meet at Apalachee Regional Park. When the NCAA meet comes here in 2021,...