Mantua – When the information came home from school last spring for Crestwood’s Hershey Track Camp, we had no idea what to expect. As a parent, I was looking for fun and interesting activities for my girls, ages seven and nine, to try over the summer. The weeklong camp looked good to me. Luckily, my girls agreed, so we signed both of them up for Hershey Track Camp. Although we weren’t quite sure what to expect, we were looking forward to the opportunity for the girls to try out various track and field events.
ages-9-to-14Prior to this year, we hadn’t heard of this program, but came to learn that this is the third year Crestwood has offered the program. We learned that Crestwood employees and moms, Kim Ondash and Mary Beth Thigpen (the Middle School Track coach), had been taking their kids to the same program at different schools, and thought that Crestwood kids would benefit from the program. In the first two years of the Crestwood camps, over 30 kids participated. This year, the program swelled to over 70 participants.
While a few of the daily practices were rescheduled due to weather, the camp managed to get in enough practices to prepare kids for an official “Meet” at the end of the week. An added bonus was that the participants were split up into small groups each day and given “coaches” — Crestwood middle and high school track athletes — to help them train. The coaches were great with the kids. Coaches taught their groups how to warm up, and then helped them work on the skills necessary to compete in the various events, from softball throws, to standing long jumps, to sprints, distance running, and relays.
Due to the number of children participating, organizers decided to have two meets — one for kids aged five to eight years old on Thursday, and another for the older kids on Friday night. Bright orange Crestwood Hershey Track Camp shirts were distributed to the athletes, and parents charged up their video cameras and cell phones. The first meet was great fun. Parents and other fans delighted in watching their young athletes figure out how far they could throw, how far they could jump, how fast they could run, and more importantly, how long they could stay focused. Kids smiled and laughed, pigtails bobbed, and parents cheered as some of the younger athletes had to be reminded to keep running to the finish line. At the end of the evening, all participants received a participant certificate and those who placed first through eighth received ribbons. The kids were inspired to continue practicing, and many said they plan to sign up next year.
The next evening was also enjoyable, but in a different way. The athletes were excited to compete, to see how they ranked against the kids they had been working with all week. While the previous night’s activities were more light-hearted, the Friday event was a bit more serious. Athletes knew that first place winners would qualify to compete in the State Finals at Jesse Owen Stadium at The Ohio State University in Columbus. They still had fun all week, and still had the opportunity to choose the three events they wanted to compete in at week’s end, but they all definitely had their game-faces on.
As families watched their athletes compete that evening, they got a chance to see friendships grow and good sportsmanship learned. They also enjoyed a rare sneak-peek at Crestwood’s future pool of middle and high school athletes strut their stuff. Samantha Usher, one of the event’s organizers and teacher at Crestwood Intermediate agreed, explaining, “I committed to helping run the Hershey Program, knowing that this camp would benefit our high school cross country and track programs. Since I am the Varsity girls cross country coach I thought it would be a great way to build our program.” And while 70+ kids started Hershey Track Camp that week, 15 would eventually earn spots in Columbus to compete against the best Hershey Track Camp athletes from around Ohio.
During the week, they also learned that one of their own, 12-year-old Brianna Yurkovich, who participated in the camp last year, ended up winning first place at State in her event, the 800-meter sprint. Brianna earned the awesome opportunity to compete against the top student athletes from the US and Canada at the North American Final in Hershey, Pennsylvania last year. Brianna had this to share with her fellow Crestwood athletes, “Keep running. As long as you’re having fun, you can achieve great things.”
Well, Brianna and the fourteen other athletes from Crestwood did keep running that week, and earned something great — places at last Saturday’s State Meet in Columbus. Per Coach Usher, “The State Meet in Columbus is a great honor for these kids. In fact, other than Hershey Track Camp, the only other opportunity they will have to run at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Stadium is at the State Meet at the high school level.”
And while none of our Crestwood athletes finished first this year at the State Competition, we’re certain that all the fun and excitement they experienced in 2013 will have them signing up to try again next year. Hershey Track Camp will be held at the Crestwood High School Track in June 2014. For information on next year’s program, contact Samantha Usher at